Around the World in Women's Soccer: Spain's Primera División
Around the World in Women's Soccer is a series that explores women's soccer in other countries. Each country will get two stories: The first will explore the country's national team, while the second will explore the country's domestic league.
La Roja, Spain's women's national team, made a splash on the international stage during the 2019 Women's World Cup. They went toe-to-toe with both Germany and the United States, ultimately losing both games but proving that they could battle with the big dogs. And almost all the players on their roster came from the Primera División.
The Primera División is Spain's top-flight women's league. Spain has had a women's league since 1988, when it was called Liga Nacional. Since then, it has been played under a few different names and formats. The league started playing as the Primera División in 201l and was granted professionalized league status by the Spanish federation in June 2020.
In addition to league play, Spanish clubs also play in Copa de la Reina de Fútbol and Supercopa de España Femenina. Copa de la Reina is a competition that dates back to 1983 and is played by all 16 teams in the top-flight. Supercopa de España Femenina was originally a match between the winners of Copa de la Reina and Primera División, but since the competition was reinstated in 2019, it has featured four teams instead of two. The additional two teams are the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in Primera División.
The most successful clubs in Spanish women's club football are Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao. Both teams have won five league titles, although all of Barcelona's titles have come since 2012, while almost all of Athletic Bilbao's titles came before 2008. Barcelona has also won Copa de la Reina six times, while Athletic Bilbao has never won that title.
Atlético Madrid is another team that has found recent success in Primera División. They have won three titles since 2017 and were the runners-up to Barcelona in the most recent season. Many of the players featured on the Spanish WNT play for Barcelona (nine out of 23 on the most recent roster), but Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao and Levante also had multiple players on the most recent roster.
One of those players is Jennifer Hermoso, who has been one of the most successful players in Primera División for years. She has been the league's top goal-scorer for four out of the last five years, playing for both Barcelona and Atlético Madrid. Last season, she tallied 23 goals for Barcelona.
A Spanish team has never won a UEFA Women's Champions League title, but Barcelona came close in 2019. Ultimately, they weren't able to take down the powerhouse Lyon, but no one in European soccer has been able to figure Lyon out for the last decade. This year, Atlético Madrid lost to Barcelona in the quarterfinals, while Barcelona was eliminated by Wolfsburg in the semifinals.
Primera División is an increasingly attractive destination for international talent, featuring star players such as Lieke Martens from the Netherlands, Asisat Oshoala from Nigeria and Caroline Graham Hansen from Norway. The European competition is getting stronger across the board, and Spain is right alongside other rising leagues such as Italy's Serie A Women and England's FA WSL. If the talent they're bringing in is any indication, Primera División will be a force to contend with for years to come.