When the moment comes for football historians to archive the year 2023, the main narrative will certainly cover the monumental and sudden rise of the Saudi Pro League, at least as a force on the transfer market.
When Cristiano Ronaldo first touched down in the Gulf nation, the perplexed worldwide audience would have never thought that enormous moves to the KSA would become the norm only a few months later.
By the end of the summer, the Saudi Pro League became the home of a plethora of superstars, including Karim Benzema, Neymar, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Jordan Henderson and N’Golo Kanté.
Yet, with the vast majority of the top-notch footballers saturated in the country’s four biggest teams, many fans and pundits argue that the Saudi league still has a long way to establish itself as an elite domestic league comparable to top European leagues.
The Saudi Pro League’s detractors also use the league’s relatively low ranking to back up their point.
But is there truly an official world ranking for domestic leagues? Where is the Saudi Pro League ranked? And how does it compare to MLS?
Let’s find out.
Are Football Leagues Ranked Officially?
Let’s begin by saying that we do not have an official global ranking that includes all football leagues. While FIFA runs an official ranking for national teams, the organization doesn’t have a similar one for domestic leagues.
While this answer might be disappointing for some, it is also completely logical, as it would be both superficial and unfair to run an official ranking that includes leagues from different corners of the world, as their clubs seldom collide against one another on the pitch, except for unofficial friendly matches and the Club World Cup (a brief tournament with a limited number of contestants).
On the other hand, continental organizations like UEFA, AFC and CONMEBOL each have their own league rankings. For instance, UEFA uses its coefficient to determine the number of spots allocated to each country in its competitions, including the Champions League.
Football League World Ranking
As we mentioned above, there is no official world ranking for football leagues. However, we do have classifications from unofficial sources that adopt similar standards to the ones applied by UEFA and other continental organizations when ranking football leagues.
TeamForm is one of the most prominent sources when it comes to ranking global football, so we’ll utilize their data in the standings below.
|16||Czech Liga||Czech Republic|
|56||Major League Soccer||USA|
|68||Pro League||Saudi Arabia|
Saudi Pro League World Ranking
The Saudi Pro League is currently ranked 68th in the world based on TeamForm’s rankings. Obviously, this isn’t where the country’s sports officials aspire to be, especially following the league’s extravagant summer spending.
But with four or more clubs now filled with top-notch talent, Saudi clubs are now head and shoulders above their competitors on the Asian and Arabic scenes, at least on paper.
Therefore, one would expect them to dominate the regional and continental landscapes, which would subsequently elevate their status in the rankings.
MLS World Ranking
Major League Soccer, otherwise known as MLS currently lies in the 56th place in the world ranking. For the last 15 years or so, the American league has been mixing aging superstars, who had their exploits on the European scene, with rising domestic talent.
Although the sport’s popularity continues to grow in the country, the league’s relatively low ranking suggests that MLS still has a lot to do in order to become a top attraction for the worldwide audience.
Chinese Super League World Ranking
The Chinese Super League is currently ranked as the 61st in the world. The rise and fall of the CSL has been well-illustrated by now.
The league managed to attract a host of stars (the likes of Oscar, Hulk and Axel Witsel) by splashing lavish amounts of cash, but a real-estate crisis in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country forced the major companies to downsize their football projects, prompting a rapid exodus.
How Saudi Pro League Compares
Saudi Pro League vs European Leagues
As we can clearly concluded from the table above, the Saudi Pro League still has a long way to go to catch up with the top European leagues. The rankings even suggests that the Saudi League is lower than England’s League One, the country’s third-tier division.
Nevertheless, if they continue to raid some of European football’s finest stars, they could manage to close the gap, although such a scenario won’t occur overnight.
Saudi Pro League vs MLS
Even in the autumn of their playing careers, eternal rivals Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are still finding new ways to keep their two loyal fanbases busy arguing with one another.
While the Portuguese claimed that the Saudi Pro League is better than MLS, the current standings suggest otherwise, with the American league (56th) currently lying ahead of its Arabic counterpart (68th), although not by a large margin.
One can argue that the MLS is more open and competitive compared to the Saudi Pro League where the gap between the top four clubs and the rest of the table is becoming increasingly resounding.
Saudi Pro League vs UAE Pro League
At the moment, the Saudi Pro League (68th) is almost on par with its neighbor, the UAE Pro League (69th). The first is ahead by the slightest of margins.
Nonetheless, the arrival of a flock of top stars to KSA should tip the scale in favor of the Saudi League.
Saudi Pro League vs Chinese Super League
Despite the economic crisis that deflated the Chinese Super League (61st), it remains ahead of the Saudi Pro League (68th) in the current standings.
Since the rise of the Saudi League, fans and observers alike swiftly ran a comparison with the Chinese Super League which rose and fell in a relatively short period, even though the gigantic East Asian nation never truly managed to lure stars in the magnitude of Ronaldo, Neymar and Benzema.
So while the Chinese remain slightly ahead in the rankings, the Saudis should be able to overtake them sooner or later, especially if they manage to avoid some of the financial blunders committed by their counterparts.