Like in other parts of the world, football is one of the most followed and televised sports in Asia.
In recent years, the round-leather game has become more attractive and lucrative in the region. There are noticeable improvements season after season.
Qatar hosted the last FIFA World Cup in 2022, becoming the 3rd Asian country to do so after South Korea and Japan both co-hosted it 20 years earlier (2002).
Furthermore, the level of competition in the Asian club football leagues have also continued to develop.
This — along with mouth-watering deals — has attracted some of the best players in the world to the most populous continent on planet Earth. The latest huge transfer was that of Cristiano Ronaldo, who moved from Manchester United to Al-Nassr last January.
In this article, TOP SOCCER BLOG brings the top 10 best football leagues in Asia in the year 2023.
1. K-League (South Korea)
The South Korean K-League was created in 1983, and it is currently contested by 12 club sides.
Initially, it operated in a closed system with no relegation or promotion. But later on, the league adopted promotion and relegation as more clubs in the country became professional.
There are so many top football clubs in South Korea that have dominated in national and continental competitions.
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors are the most successful South Korean club, with 9 K-League titles to their name.
The International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) has been compiling league rankings since 1991, and the K League has been the best Asian football league every year since 2011.
The IFFHS rankings are based on performances at FIFA or continental competitions and domestic matches by the top-five clubs in leagues across the world.
South Korean clubs have won the AFC Champions League a combined 12 times.
2. J-League 1 (Japan)
What the Japanese J-League 1 lacks in terms of big-name and highly-paid superstar players, it makes it up with overall quality.
Founded in 1992, it is one of the most successful leagues in Asian club football.
Contested by 18 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the J2 League. Until the 2014 season, it was known as the J League Division 1.
Notably, former Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger managed J-League side Nagoya Grampus Eight in 1995/96.
There are so many top football clubs in Japan that have dominated in national and continental competitions.
The most successful Japanese football club in terms of total domestic league crowns won is Kashima Antlers, who have won 8 titles.
Kashima Antlers achieved a significant milestone in 2016 when they became the first club from Asia to make it to the FIFA Club World Cup final, thanks to their convincing 3-0 win over the South American champions, Atlético Nacional.
Some of the best football players in Japan have come through the J-League.
Japanese teams have won the AFC Champions League 7 times.
3. Saudi Pro League (Saudi Arabia)
The Saudi Professional League was founded in 1976 and has since been a powerhouse on the Asian continent.
It is currently contested by 16 club sides, but it will be expanded to 18 from the 2023/24 season.
Saudi Pro League sides have been paying high salaries to domestic players to keep them from moving abroad.
In addition, players from other countries regularly get signed by Saudi Arabian football teams.
In January 2023, Al-Nassr signed Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United in what is arguably the greatest transfer ever made by an Asian football club.
The most successful football club in Saudi Arabia is Al-Hilal, who have won the Pro League 18 times and the AFC Champions League 4 times. Al-Hilal also have the most AFC titles in history.
In total, Saudi Arabian football clubs have won the AFC Champions League a combined 6 times.
You can visit this Soccer Blog to learn about the league.
4. Qatar Stars League (Qatar)
The Qatar Stars League (QSL) was founded in 1972.
Contested by 12 teams, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the Qatari Second Division (QSD).
QSL is one of the fastest-growing football leagues in Asia, regularly recording high influx of foreigners from European countries, Africa, Brazil, and other South American countries.
Barcelona legend, Xavi Hernandez famously moved to to Qatar to boost the league’s profile. The midfielder signed for Al-Sadd, which are the most successful football club in Qatar, with 16 titles.
Some famous football players who played in Qatar include Seydou Keita, Xavi, Vladimir Weiss, Marcel Desailly, Josep Guardiola, Juninho Pernambucano, Raúl González, James Rodríguez, and Wesley Sneijder.
Qatari football teams have won the Asian Continental AFC Champions League twice.
They also have some of the best football stadiums in Qatar.
5. Super League (China)
The Chinese Super League was established in 2004 by the rebranding of the former top division, Chinese Jia-A League.
It is currently contested by 16 teams. In its early years, the CSL faced numerous problems due to match-fixing.
In recent years, Chinese clubs have spent large sums of money to lure superstar players from the Premier League and other European big leagues.
Some of the big-name players that moved to China are: Carlos Tevez, Didier Drogba, Oscar, Paulinho, Yannick Carrasco, Jackson Martinez, Hulk, Graziano Pelle, Ramires, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Renato Augusto, and Cedric Bakambu.
Those big signings boosted the Chinese Super League then as it recorded an average attendance of 24,107 for league matches in the 2018 season.
This was the 12th highest of any domestic professional sports league in the world and the 6th highest of any professional football league in the world then — only behind the Bundesliga, Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, and Liga MX.
Although the league boasted of the most talented imports in Asia, it consists of Chinese players who are not as good as their counterparts from Japan, South Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Australia.
The most successful Chinese football club is Guangzhou FC, with 8 CSL titles.
Chinese football clubs have won 3 AFC Champions League titles overall.
6. UAE Pro League (United Arab Emirates)
The UAE Pro League was founded in 1973, and 14 clubs currently compete in it. The league operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the First Division League.
The league is organized by the UAE Football Association (UAEFA) and is sponsored by Etisalat. The season usually runs from September to May, with each team playing a total of 26 matches, with 13 games played at home and 13 games played away.
Al Ain have won the most domestic titles in the UAE, with 14. They are also the only side from the country to have won the AFC Champions League, which they have done once. Other successful teams include Al Wahda FC, who have won the league 7 times, and Al Jazira Club, who have won it 3 times.
In addition to the league title, teams also compete for the UAE President’s Cup and the UAE League Cup. The winner of the league qualifies for the AFC Champions League, while the second and third-placed teams qualify for the AFC Cup.
The league has attracted many international players and coaches over the years, with some of the most notable including Asamoah Gyan, Grafite, Mirko Vučinić, and Cosmin Olăroiu.
The league has also been recognized for its investment in youth development and infrastructure, with the creation of the UAE Football Association Academy, and the opening of state-of-the-art stadiums such as the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium and the Zayed Sports City Stadium.
7. A-League (Australia)
Founded in 2004, the Australian A-League is currently contested by 12 teams: 11 from Australia and 1 from New Zealand.
Seasons run from October to May and include a 26-round regular season followed by a Finals Series playoff involving the 6 highest-placed teams, culminating in a grand final match.
Furthermore, the winner of the regular season tournament is dubbed the ”Premier” while the winner of the grand final is the season’s ”Champion”.
In addition to the league title, teams also compete for the FFA Cup and the AFC Champions League. The winner of the league qualifies for the AFC Champions League, while the winner of the FFA Cup qualifies for the preliminary rounds of the same competition.
Like the MLS, the A-League does not practice relegation and promotion and also has a salary cap.
With 5 titles, Sydney FC are the most successful football club in Australia.
An Australian side has won the AFC Champions League once.
The league has attracted many international players and coaches over the years, with some of the most notable including Alessandro Del Piero, Dwight Yorke, Jack Rodwell, Daniel Sturridge, Robbie Fowler, Nani, and Besart Berisha.
The A-league has also been recognized for its investment in youth development and infrastructure, with the establishment of the National Youth League and the opening of state-of-the-art stadiums such as the Allianz Stadium and the AAMI Park.
8. Persian Gulf Pro League (Iran)
The Persian Gulf Pro League, also known as Iran Pro League, is the highest level of professional football league in Iran. It was founded in 2001 and currently consists of 16 teams.
The league is organized by the Iran Football League Organization, which is affiliated with the Iranian Football Federation.
The league follows a double round-robin format, which means each team plays against all other teams twice, once at home and once away, resulting in a total of 30 matches played by each team in a season.
The team with the most points at the end of the season is crowned the league champion, while the bottom two teams are relegated to the Azadegan League, which is the second tier of Iranian football.
Persepolis is the most successful club, with 14 titles.
Iranian sides have won the AFC Champions League 3 times.
The Persian Gulf Pro League has produced some notable players over the years, including Ali Karimi, who won the Asian Footballer of the Year award in 2004, and Sardar Azmoun, who is widely regarded as one of the best strikers in Asia.
The league has also gained popularity in recent years, with matches broadcasted live on national television and online streaming platforms.
9. Uzbekistan Super League (Uzbekistan)
The Uzbekistan Super League was founded in 1992 and is currently competed by 14 teams.
The top team automatically qualifies for the group stage of the AFC Champions League.
In 2017, the Uzbek League was officially renamed to Uzbekistan Super League starting from the 2018 season. The number of teams playing in the top division of Uzbek football also got reduced from 16 to 12.
With 15 titles, Pakhtakor have won the most Uzbekistan Super League crowns.
10. Thai League 1 (Thailand)
The Thai League 1 was founded in 1996. Contested by 16 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the Thai League 2.
Buriram United have won the most Thai League 1 titles, with 8.
Football clubs from Thailand have won the AFC Champions League twice.
1. Pro League – United Arab Emirates. The United Arab Emirates Division 1 or the Arabian Gulf League is the top professional football league in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Al-Ain has won the league for a record 13 times.Which country in Asia is best in football? ›
South Korea is the most successful Asian football team. The first two competitions of the AFC Asian Cup were won by South Korea twice (1956 and 1960). Heung-min Son, Ji-Sung Park, Cha Bum-Kun, and Hong Myung-bo are a few of the best athletes to have ever played for South Korea.Which club has the most fans in Asia? ›
|1||AI Hilal/ Saudi Arabia||1623|
|3||UIsan Hyundai/ South Korea||1584|
|4||AI-Duhail SC/ Qatar||1583|
Asia has the largest fan following of football than any other continent which is approximately 800 million and it also exhibits 32 percent of the viewership for the English Premier League.What is the biggest football competition in Asia? ›
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Royal Challengers Bangalore, a well-known Indian Premier League franchise, is named the most popular sports team in a recent study, garnering 64.2 million interactions on Instagram. With 60.9 million engagements, Cristiano Ronaldo's Al-Nassr takes second place. The poll was done by Deportes and Finanzas.Who is the football king in Asia? ›
Lee Wai-tong. Such was his love for Hong Kong that Lee Wai-tong, Asia's greatest footballer, famously turned down a lucrative offer to play in England for Arsenal.Does Asia have American football? ›
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Persepolis FC (Iran)
According to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), it is the most popular football club in Asia. At the AFC Champions League, the club has the records of the most attendances.
Al-Hilal hold the record for the most victories, with four wins since the competition's inception.What is the biggest Premier League team in Asia? ›
- Manchester United. Manchester United is the most supported football team among British and South Asians. ...
- Liverpool. Another football team with a sizable fanbase among South Asians is Liverpool. ...
- Arsenal. ...
- Chelsea. ...
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The NFL's Popularity and the Interests of Chinese Youth
The Super Bowl has millions of viewers from all over the world, and China's youth is starting to take notice. It's a common sight to see Chinese children play the sport now, as they're attracted to the heavy contact of the sport.
So, what is the number one football team by followers on social media? The answer is Real Madrid! Like in 2021 and 2022, also this year Real is the most followed football club in the world. Overall, the top 10 teams are the same as in 2021 and 2022.What is the most popular NFL team in Asia? ›
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|League Rank||League Name|
|1.||National Football League|
|2.||Indian Premier League|
|3.||Major League Baseball|
|4.||National Basketball Association|
Ligue 1, officially known as Ligue 1 Uber Eats for sponsorship reasons, is a French professional league for men's association football clubs. Being the top of the French football league system, it is the country's primary football competition.