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 7 tiers with 33 individual leagues, in a series of partially interconnected leagues that are bound together by the principle of promotion and relegation.
A significant feature is that there is not only leagues in the system, but also some tournaments 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" 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.
The top 3 tiers are nationwide professional competitions, Super League, China League, Division Two League, have promotion and relegation between the leagues allowing smaller clubs the hypothetical possibility of ultimately rising to the very top of the system.
The hierarchical system continues and levels have progressively more parallel divisions, which each cover progressively smaller geographic areas. 47 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 feed 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. This is the only way to enter the professional leagues.
|1||CFA Super League (CSL)
↓ 3 relegation spots
|2||CFA China League
↑ 3 promotion spots
↓ 3 relegation spots
|3||CFA Division Two League
↑ 3 promotion spots
↓ 2 relegation spots
|4-7||CFA member associations leagues
↑ 4 promotion spots (Top 4 clubs of each league could be qualified through CMCL)
↓ Each league has different relegation method
Changchun Amateur (18 clubs)
Chengdu City Super (10 clubs)
Chongqing Amateur Super (12 clubs) | One (6 clubs)
Dalian City A (8 clubs) | B (7 clubs)
Fujian Super (4 clubs)
Guangdong Super (16 clubs)
Guangxi Champions (4 clubs)
Guangzhou City (8 clubs)
Hainan Super (8 clubs) | One (16 clubs)
Hunan Super (7 clubs)
Jiangsu Championship (8 clubs)
Jiangxi Super (6 clubs)
Liaoning Cities Super (16 clubs)
Nanjing Super (9 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 (11 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 Champions (8 clubs)
Zhejiang Super A (8 clubs) | Super B (8 clubs)
|6-7||City-level associations leagues
↑ Each league has different promotion method
[→ Zhejiang Super B] Hangzhou (2 tiers) | Huzhou | Lishui | Ningbo | Shaoxing | Wenzhou (2 tiers) | Zhoushan (2 tiers)
The highest level of football in China is the Super League which was founded in 2004. In 2016, The Chinese Super League was declared by the seventh annual Global Sports Salaries Survey as the world's 12th highest-paying sports league in which 47 players — constituting the top 10% — claim more than 81% of the total pot of earnings. The China League and Division Two League are currently the second and third division.
The CFA has 47 member associations, 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 and Chinese Enterprise 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.
Up to 6 clubs of the tournament receive promotion to the Division Two League.
Only the Zhejiang Football Association has partially implemented a feed league system.
The three levels of women's football are structured as follows:
|1||CFA Women's Super League (CWCL)|
↓ 1 relegation playoff spot
|2||CFA Women's League|
↑ 2 promotion spots + 1 promotion playoff spot
|3||CFA Women's Division 2 League|
↑ 2 promotion spots