The leagues and cups of English football can be hard to understand for many, so we decided to explain a little the structure of the national league system.
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Women’s football has been played in England for over a century, but at some point, it began losing popularity only to recover in the 1990s, when the game saw an important increase in female players, as well as spectators, culminating in England hosting the Women’s European Championships in 2005. Nowadays, with almost three million registered players, football is again the most popular sport for women and girls in England.
The Football Association is the body that currently operates the national league system in women’s football in England. It took over the running of the women’s game in 1993.
The Football Association Women’s Super League (FA WSL) is the highest league within English domestic football. It began in April 2011 and consists of two divisions, the WSL 1 and the WSL 2.
In 2016, there were nine clubs in FA WSL 1 and 10 teams in FA WSL 2. What’s important to know is that, at the end of the season, two clubs are promoted from FA WSL 2 to FA WSL 1, while one club is relegated to FA WSL 2.
Besides FA WSL, there is also the FA Women’s Premier League (FA WPL). Founded in June 2014 with the integration of the previous FA Women’s Premier League and the four combination leagues, the Premier League is divided into six leagues of 12 teams over two divisions: the FA Women’s Premier League Northern Division and the FA Women’s Premier League Southern Division.
Beneath sit four Division Ones – North, Midlands, South-East and South-West – with a total of 72 clubs when at full strength . Teams in these two divisions compete in the Premier League Cup.
In addition to the divisional competitions, the League also runs a Cup, Plate and Reserve Cup competition each season.
Below the Premier League are eight regional leagues. Below the regional leagues are the county leagues.
For those who want to go more in-depth, know that the competition structure for women’s open-age football is known as the women’s football pyramid.
New teams join the competition structure at County League step W5, which is basically the foundation of the pyramid. A promotion pool is operated between County and Regional Leagues for teams to climb up the pyramid. Teams can then gain promotion into The FA Women’s Premier League (FA WPL) by winning their respective regional league.