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AFC Women's Asian Cup

Comparing Indian women's domestic structure to Europe's top five countries' league system

07:23 GMT+3 29/12/2021
Gokulam Kerala, Arsenal, Bayern Munich women's teams
India's premier league competition IWL was formed in 2016...

India are all set to take part in the AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022 which kicks off in January in India.

The Blue Tigresses are currently ranked 56th in the world and 13th in Asia. India have only one premier league competition for women, the Indian Women's League (IWL) which started in 2016. But unlike most higher-ranked nations in football world, they don't host any cup competition.

Among the top-ranked European countries, Netherlands have a closed top-tier league like India where there are no promotion or relegation. But they do have two other divisions, where amateur clubs take part.

Here, we take a look at the domestic league structures of the top five ranked teams in Europe - Sweden, Germany, France, Netherlands and England.

Sweden

Damallsvenskan is the premier league competition of women's football in Sweden. The league was established in 1988 and FC Rosengard are the most successful team in the history of the league with 12 titles to their name. They also won the 2021 edition of the league. 12 teams take part in the league and a total of 132 matches are played in the top division. The 2021 season was played between April 2021 to November 2021. The bottom-placed side is relegated to the second division which is named Elitettan. The champions and the runners-up teams of Damallsvenskan qualify for the UEFA Women's Champions League second round while the third-placed side make it to the first round.

Other than the top two divisions, there are six other divisions which are all regional leagues. There are no cup competitions in the country.

Germany

In Germany, there are three main divisions in the pyramid of women's football. Below the three divisions, there are six more levels where local leagues take place. Frauen-Bundesliga which was established in 1990 is the top division league followed by 2. Frauen-Bundesliga and Frauen-Regionalliga.

12 teams take part in the top division while in the second division, 14 clubs participate. A total of 132 matches are played in top division and it runs from August to May. In the third division, 70 clubs are divided into five leagues equally (Regionalliga Nord, Regionalliga Nordost, Regionalliga West, Regionalliga Sudwest, Regionalliga Sud). DFB Cup is Germany's cup competition in women's football.

The 2021-22 season of the Frauen-Bundesliga kicked off in August 2021 with Bayern Munich currently at the top of the table with 28 points from 12 matches. The champions directly qualify for the UEFA Women's Champions League group stages while the second and third-placed teams make it to the Champions League round two and one respectively.

France

In France, there are four divisions in the women's league system. Division 1 Feminine is the top-tier league where 12 teams participate with a total of 132 matches played in the league. The league runs from August to May. In Division 2, 20 teams are divided into two groups equally and in Division 3, 40 clubs are divided into four groups with 10 teams in each group. The fourth division comprises of multiple regional leagues.

The Division 1 Feminine was formed in 1974. The 2021/22 season kicked off in August 2021 and the defending champions are Lyon. The champions will directly qualify for the UEFA Women's Champions League group stages while the second and third-placed teams will make it to the Champions League play-off round two and one respectively.

Netherlands

Three divisions form the league system of women's football in Netherlands. Eredivisie is the top division league of the country followed by Topklasse and Hoofdklasse. It has to be noted that only amateur clubs take part in the second and third divisions. The Eredivisie is a closed league with no promotion and relegation. 72 matches are played in the top division and it runs from August to May. Other than the leagues, the Dutch clubs also play in KNVB Women's Cup, the country's premier cup competition.

Eredivisie was formed in 2007 and was closed temporarily in 2012 when the Royal Dutch Football Association or the KNVB decided to start BeNe league in collaboration with the Belgian Football Association. The league was stopped after just three years as the Eredivisie was restarted in 2015. Nine teams take part in the top division while 12 teams each participate in the second and third divisions.

The 2021/22 edition of the Eredivisie kicked off in August 2021 and Ajax are currently at the top of the league table with 25 points from 12 games followed by FC Twente. The top two teams qualify for the UEFA Women's Champions League first round. 

England

There are five tiers in England's women's football league system. The FA Women's Super League (WSL) is the top division league of the country followed by the FA Women's Championship. In the third division, there are two leagues, FA Women's National League North and South. The FA Women's National League is the fourth division and after which there are the regional and county leagues that form the fifth division. 12 teams take part in each league.

In the Women's Super League 12 teams take part and a total of 132 matches are played. The league runs from August to May.

The WSL was formed in 2011 and was made the premier league competition of the country. Chelsea are the most successful team with four titles to their name and are also the defending champions. 

The 2021/22 season of the WSL kicked off in September 2021 and Arsenal are currently leading the charts with 25 points from nine matches followed by Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at the third and fourth position respectively. The champions and the runners-up will qualify for the UEFA Women's Champions League round two while the third-placed team will make it to the Champions League round one.

Other than the leagues, the clubs also participate in two cup competitions, the FA Women's Cup and the FA WSL Cup. The FA Women's Cup like the men's tournament is held between September and May every season.

India

The Indian Women's League (IWL) was formed in 2016 and so far four seasons have been conducted. Gokulam Kerala are the reigning champions who won the title for the first time in the 2019-20 season. 

In the inaugural edition, six teams participated but in the last season, 12 teams took part in the league. The 12 teams were divided into two groups of six clubs each. After the round-robin stage, the top two teams from each group qualified for the knock-out stage. Since 2020, the IWL has not been conducted due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.