The exact number of professional football teams in the world is difficult to determine due to the vast number of leagues, divisions and regions involved. Football is played and organised at various levels, ranging from the elite professional leagues to semi-professional and amateur teams.
Not only that, but the number of professional teams can change over time as new teams emerge or existing ones dissolve. What we do know is that there are thousands of professional football teams worldwide. Some countries have multiple tiers of professional leagues, each with numerous teams.
Major footballing nations like England, Spain, Germany, Italy and Brazil have several professional leagues and hundreds of clubs collectively. On top of that, continental competitions, such as the UEFA Champions League in Europe or the Copa Libertadores in South America, involve professional teams from various countries competing against one another.
These tournaments further expand the number of professional teams involved on a global scale. Considering all the professional leagues, divisions, and international competitions worldwide, the total number of professional football teams is likely to be in the thousands, if not more.
What We Know
In 2017, FIFA released their Global Club Football Report. In it, they looked at the state of the health of club football at the time, attempting to work with the 211 member associations that were affiliated with FIFA at the time across the six confederations that were part of the FIFA family. In the end, primary and secondary sources had to be used to collate the information as not all of the 211 member associations at the time worked with FIFA on the construction of the report. This was particularly difficult to sort when it came to women’s football, given the emerging nature of the market.
The 2017 Global Club Football Report was the first of its kind analysing club football on a worldwide scale. With this in mind, it is difficult to tell exactly how accurate the report was, but the suggestion was that there were 168 leagues playing football at the time, with 1,598 clubs taking part in matches at the time.
The tricky thing is figuring out how many of those clubs were professional, rather than amateur, in nature. With this in mind, it is worth looking at FIFA’s Professional Football Report of 2019, which specifically looked at professional clubs and said that there were 3,903 professional clubs playing at the time.
The Regional Confederations
When looking to consider how many professional football teams there are in the world, the first thing to do is to look at how FIFA works. FIFA is the Federation Internationale de Football Association, meaning that it is actually made up of all of the confederations that play football around the planet before a formal board is put together to oversee how it works.
There are 218 member associations within those confederations, as well as four associate members, with the details on how many are based where being broken down as follows:
- AFC – Asian Football Confederation – 47 members
- CAF – Confederation of African Football – 54 members plus 2 associate members
- CONCACAF – Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football – 41 members
- CONMEBOL – Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol – 10 members
- OFC – Oceania Football Confederation – 11 members plus 2 associate members
- UEFA – Union of European Football Associations – 55 members
You can see that UEFA is the biggest federation, having been founded in 1954 and representing the European footballing nations, with the Confederation of African Football out-numbering it if you include the associate members that are based in the confederation now.
Which Country Has The Most Professional Teams?
|Country||Confederation||Number Of Professional Clubs|
|Antigua and Barbuda||CONCACAF||1|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||UEFA||18|
|Republic of Ireland||UEFA||17|
It is virtually impossible to have live and up-to-date information regarding how many professional football teams there are in the world. It is not exactly uncommon for football teams to have to fold and be removed from existence, even in a country as comparatively rich as England is compared to the rest of the world.
We saw this happen with Bury after the club was expelled from the Football League in 2019, despite having been in existence for 125 years. With this in mind, any report into exactly how many football clubs exist at any given moment is likely to be out of date by the time you read it.
That being said, football clubs need to register with their national football association if they want to operate on a professional basis, with the FA itself then reporting that number to FIFA. In 2023, it was said that there were more than 4,400 professional football teams operating around the world, whilst over 130,000 professional players were recognised by FIFA. The obvious question to ask is where these 4,479 professional clubs were based, with the table above showing the information that we have available to us in May 2023 according to FBref.
It is perhaps not all that surprising that England, where football originated, is the country that boasts the most professional football clubs.