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The top association football league of Portugal was founded in 1934 and currently has sixteen teams playing in it. Out of these sixteen teams five have won the title and three are considered to be the most important and best teams. The three highest ranking teams in Portuguese Liga Sagres have won the title 71 of the 73 times it has been available.
The Portuguese Liga Sagres has a similar format to many of the top leagues in Europe with the teams playing in a round robin season. Currently the league has a UEFA Coefficient that places it eighth out of all the leagues in Europe. Because of this the team can send 2 teams to the Champions League and 4 to the Europa League. So while there really are only three relevant teams for international play, all of the games are extremely competitive because only two of the three can advance into the champions league.
The Big Three Of Portuguese Liga Sagres
The first team of the big three is Sport Lisboa e Benfica, or just Benfica. This club is a based out of Lisbon and has other sports in the club but is most widely known for its Football team. The team was founded in 1904 and has a rich tradition of international and domestic play. They have never been relegated from the top league and have won the most Portuguese Liga championships with thirty one. They are the most successful of the big three overall, however they have had some difficult times in recent memory.
In addition to their success in Portugal, Benfica also has 2 UEFA Champions League trophies to their credit. They were able to capture the trophy in consecutive years in 1960-61 and 1961-62. This is unprecedented for a team not from the English, Spanish or Italian premier leagues. Because of this and their other championships Benfica is probably the most popular football team in all of Portugal. Even with all the success and support, the team ran into serious problems in the mid nineties and early two thousand. There were bad signings, terrible coaches, and overall not very good football being played by Benfica. The team finished as low as 6th place in the Portuguese Liga Sagres, something unheard and nearly unfathomable. This changed though when the team won their first titles since 1996 in 2004. In 2005-06 the team made a strong showing the Champions league advancing all the way to the quarterfinals. The team’s success continues to this day and they appear to once again be back at the forefront of Portuguese football.
The next team of importance in Portuguese Liga Sagres is Futebol Clube do Porto, or FC Porto. This club plays out of the city of Porto and was founded in 1893. While Benfica can be called the most popular and successful football team in Portugal, FC Porto is the most successful team internationally with many of their success coming recently. They won the European Cup in 1986-87, the first of their international titles. The next year they won the European Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup, both of which where firsts for Portuguese teams. In 1994 they manage to get to the semi finals of the UEFA Champions League, but some twenty years that was the only real highlight of their international play.
In 2003 that would change though as FC Porto made a run at the EUFA Cup and managed to claim it in an exciting 3-2 victory over Celtic. In 2004 they were able to do something even greater as they won the UEFA Champions League. This is the highest honour for any club in European football and it basically means that in 2004 they were one of, if not the, best teams in the world. They continue to have strong showings in international play today.
The last team to make up the big three is the Sporting Clube de Portugal, or Sporting for short. Out of the big three Sporting probably has had the least success internationally and in the domestic league, but they are still a powerhouse and important team when compared with the others of the league. They have captured the Portuguese Liga 18 times and the Cup of Portugal 19 times. There one major international trophy was capturing the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1964.
These three teams make up the majority of what is the best in Portuguese Liga. These three teams compete strongly to try to win the top spot in the league. That spot guarantees the club will go directly to the group phase of the UEFA Champions League. The second place team will enter the competition in the third qualifying round and can be a risky proposition to advance to the group phase. The third place team does not even qualify for the Champions League. As you can see winning the Portuguese Liga is not only prestigious, but carries with it distinct advantages for getting into the more lucrative quarter and semi final matches. These matches can significantly increase the visibility of the football club.
There is also more to winning the Portuguese Liga then just getting into the Champions League. Portuguese football fans are some of the most passionate in the world and to win that trophy is a great honour.