Chinese football league system
SportAssociation football
Promotion and relegationYes
National system
FederationChinese Football Association
Top division
Second division
Cup competition
Association football in China

The Chinese football league system or Chinese football league pyramid, refers to the hierarchically interconnected league system for the Chinese Football Association (CFA) that currently consists of 8 tiers with 29 individual leagues, in a series of partially interconnected leagues that are bound together by the principle of promotion and relegation.[1]

A significant feature is that there is not only leagues in the system, but also some cup competitions participate, which allows clubs in the system to make multiple promotions in one season. Only the regular leagues are listed below.

By the "Notice of the General Office of the State Council on the Issuance of the General Plan for the Reform and Development of Football in China"[2] dated 8 March 2015, the CFA has set a target of an eight-level league system, which is scheduled to be realised by 2030:

1. CFA Super League

2. CFA China League

3. CFA Division Two League

4. CFA Member Association Champions League Finals

5. CFA Member Association Champions League Regional Competitions

6. Leagues of CFA member associations

7. Leagues of city-level associations (include prefecture-level and county-level cities)

8. Leagues of county-level associations (include counties and autonomous counties)

The target has principally followed the proposed structure in its implementation.

Men's system

The top 3 tiers are nationwide professional competitions, Super League, China League, Division Two League, have promotion and relegation between the leagues.[3]

The hierarchical system continues and levels have progressively more parallel divisions, which each cover progressively smaller geographic areas.[4] 50 CFA Member Associations organise different forms of competitions and 22 of them organise regular leagues, which locate from tier 4 of the system. Only Zhejiang Super League has feeder leagues.

CFA Member Association Champions League, is the amateur football finals each season, involving 64 teams from across the country. All teams registered with CFA member associations are required to gain access to the CFA Member Association Champions League in various ways, including participating and winning in leagues organised by the member association (tier 4 leagues). This is the only way to enter top 3 tiers and be a part of the professional system.

Tier Leagues / Divisions
Professional / National
1 CFA Super League (CSL)

16 clubs

↓ 2 relegation spots

2 CFA China League

16 clubs

↑ 2 promotion spots

↓ 2 relegation spots

3 CFA Division Two League

20 clubs

↑ 2 promotion spots

↓ 2 relegation spots

Amateur / Regional
4-7 CFA member associations leagues

501 clubs

↑ 4 promotion spots (through CMCL)

Changchun Amateur (18 clubs)

Chengdu City Super (10 clubs)

Chongqing Amateur Super (12 clubs) | One (6 clubs)

Fujian Super (4 clubs) | One (TBD clubs)

Guangdong Super (16 clubs)

Guangxi Clubs Championship (4 clubs)

Guangzhou (8 clubs)

Hainan Super (8 clubs) | One (16 clubs)

Hunan Super (7 clubs)

Jiangsu Champions (8 clubs)

Jiangxi Super (6 clubs)

Liaoning Cities Super (16 clubs)

Nanjing Super (8 clubs)

Qingdao City Super (8 clubs) | One (12 clubs) | Two (22 clubs)

Shanghai Super A (7 clubs) | Super B (6 clubs) | One A (7 clubs) | One B (6 clubs)

Shenzhen City Super (8 clubs) | One (6 clubs) | Two (12 clubs)

Tianjin Super (13 clubs) | One (11 clubs) | Two (126 clubs)

Wuhan City Super (8 clubs)

Xiamen Super (8 clubs) | A (10 clubs) | B (12 clubs) | Grassroots (8 clubs)

Xinjiang Championship (8 clubs)

Zhejiang Super A (8 clubs) | Super B (8 clubs)

China University Super (16 clubs) | One (24 clubs)

w/ other cup competitions

6-8 City-level associations leagues

69 clubs

Affiliated associations of Zhejiang FA

69 clubs

↑ 0-1 promotion spot to Zhejiang Super B (through play-off)

Hangzhou West Lake Super (8 clubs) | Championship A (24 clubs) | Championship B (TBD clubs)

Huzhou Super (5 clubs)

Ningbo Super (14 clubs)

Wenzhou Amateur Super (8 clubs) | A (10 clubs)

w/ other cup competitions


Tier 1-3: Professional leagues

The highest level of football in China is the Super League which was founded in 2004. The China League and Division Two League are currently the second and third division.

Tier 4-7: CFA member associations leagues

The CFA has 50 member associations,[5] 31 are the province-level, 13 are city-level and the rest are Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps FA, Federation of University Sports of China, Chinese Enterprise Sports Association, China Locomotive Sports Association and China Coal Mine Sports Association. 22 associations organise regular leagues with internal promotion and relegation, with the most tiers being the Xiamen FA and Shanghai FA, which have four tiers. Regardless of the type of competition organised by member associations, they all have a variable number of CFA Member Association Champions League positions.

4 top clubs of CMCL receive promotion to the Division Two League.

Tier 6-8: City-level associations leagues

Only the Zhejiang Football Association has implemented a feed league system, although the rule is strict. When there is a team withdraw in the Division B (tier 5), teams in city-level leagues (tier 6) will get the opportunity to be promoted.[6]

Women's system

The three levels of women's football are structured as follows:

Level Leagues
1 CFA Women's Super League (CWCL)
12 clubs
↓ 1 relegation playoff spot
2 CFA Women's League
12 clubs
↑ 2 promotion spots + 1 promotion playoff spot
3 CFA Women's Division 2 League
24 clubs
↑ 2 promotion spots

See also


  1. ^ "Country Info". Archived from the original on July 5, 2007. Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  2. ^ "国务院办公厅关于印发中国足球改革发展总体方案的通知_2015年第9号国务院公报_中国政府网". Retrieved 2021-06-01.
  3. ^ "Chinese Super League". Football Top. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  4. ^ "Chinese tycoon Ai Yakang buys actress daughter Ai Ru a football team". The Australian. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  5. ^ "中国足球协会官方网站". Retrieved 2022-05-27.
  6. ^ "浙超联赛 | 2021浙超联赛资格赛落幕,海曙好美首发获得浙超联赛B组参赛资格". Weixin Official Accounts Platform. Retrieved 2021-06-01.