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How To Read The Soccer Table? All You Need To Know

How To Read The Soccer Table? All You Need To Know

Soccer table is very peculiar to soccer so players or sports enthusiasts can track records of games played by various teams. The way it’s designed might seem like gibberish if you aren’t familiar with its terms.

Abbreviations are used to allow for all statistics to fit into a single table. The way the tables are designed, all important information for that competition or tournament is represented for easy understanding.

The soccer table is also useful for people who bet on soccer teams or the outcome of games. It can help them to predict the wins/losses/draws of any match by understanding available statistics of past and current games. Moreover, the soccer table might be in the form of soccer league and World Cup tables.

This article intends to simplify what soccer tables represent and the statistics they portray. While there are few differences in table structure depending on the league and tournament, generally they convey the same information.

How To Read The Soccer Table?

A soccer table is the hierarchy of different teams participating in the league based on the number of points they garnered per game played. In other words, for a team to sit comfortably at the top of the table, it has to have accumulated the highest number of points.

However, there are certain situations where both teams share the same points. How do they determine which team should rank higher? This is where tiebreakers like the goal difference between the teams are adopted to know which team should rank higher.

soccer players are in a match

So how can you read a soccer table? The best way to achieve this is by using a real league table showing winners, losers, and other team rankings.

For this explanation, we’ll be using the most-watched league, the English Premier League’s 2020-21 Table.

Note: the table is updated after every match played between teams in the competition.

English Premier League (EPL) Table 2020-21

1Man City38275686833251
2Man United382111674734429
5Leicester City382061266685018
6West Ham381981165624715
9Leeds United38185155962548
11Aston Villa38167155555469
14Crystal Palace3812818444166-25
19West Brom3851122263576-41
20Sheffield United387229232063-43

We’ll start with explaining the abbreviations before delving into what the entire table represents.


This stands for the position of the teams on the table. It is numbered downwards in increasing numbers with the highest-ranking team sitting at the number 1 position and the lowest ranking team at the bottom respectively.

In the example above, Man City sat at Number 1 at the end of the 2020-21 EPL season. This puts them as the winners of the league for that season.


The names of the clubs/teams participating in the competition or league are placed in this column. At the start of the season, all teams have zero points. The teams are arranged alphabetically until ranking begins when points are obtained.

Man United, although not alphabetically in the right position because of the number of accumulated points, is ranked in position 2.

a soccer match


This generally means the total number of matches played so far. Depending on the table, MP, P, or Pld is often used as a representation of these statistics.

MP outrightly stands for Matches Played, P is for Played, Pld still standing for Played. All in all, Irrespective of which is used, it connotes the number of matches played.

A closer look at the table would show that Man City had played a total of 38 matches.


This abbreviation stands for the number of matches won. There is a fixed number of games each team would have to play in the league or competition.

The total number of wins, at any given time the table is observed, is recorded on this column. Liverpool played a total of 38 matches in that 2020-21 EPL season but won only 20 of those matches.


D stands for Draw on the soccer table. Since league tournaments allow for games to end in draws, this column indicates the number of draws a team has had when the table is being viewed.

Man City, with a total of 38 games played in that soccer season year, had a total of 5 games that ended in a draw.

a player is going to kick a soccer ball to the goal


This column represents the number of games a team has lost so far in the competition. Even for the league winners of the 2020-21 EPL season, Man City, they lost 6 games out of the 38 games they had to play in total.


This abbreviation stands for the total points accumulated at any time in the competition. Points are awarded when teams win or draw a game.

3 points are awarded when the team wins and a single point is awarded when the team’s match ends in a draw. No point is given when the team loses.

In the 20/21 EPL season, Man City earned a total accumulative point of 86.


They both represent the same statistics, with both having similar meanings. GF stands for Goals For, while GS stands for Goals Scored.

Like the latter reveals, this is the total number of goals a team has scored in the competition. Still using the league table as an example, Man City scored a total of 83 goals in 38 matches.

striker kicking soccer ball


Written in either of the two possible ways, this statistic represents the total number of goals a team has conceded in the competition. A stands for Against, while GA stands for Goal Against.

In other words, it is the total number of goals that have been scored against a team in the competition.

Although Man City may have scored 83 goals throughout 38 games, they also conceded and allowed 32 goals into their net.


This acronym stands for Goal Difference and is otherwise denoted as F/A, PD, or +/-. It is used to determine the number of goals scored and conceded by a team during a tournament.

Moreover, it serves as a tiebreaker between two teams to decide which team will rank higher on the soccer table.

heavy soccer player in red uniform kicking a ball

If a team scored more goals than conceded, then the GD is good and stands a chance to rank higher than his contemporaries. However, if the team conceded more goals than goals it scored, the opposite will be the result.

Mathematically speaking, GD is the mathematical subtraction between the total number of goals a team scores and the total number of goals conceded. These statistics can be represented as a negative number if the conceded goal is greater than the number of goals the team has scored.


This is seldom included on a standard league table but it’s also an important soccer statistic to take note of. It denotes the Goal Average between a team and the other.

This can be determined by dividing the result of the GS by the GA of a team and comparing it to the other team. Sometimes GR, which means Goal Ratio, is used instead.


When teams have the same number of accumulated points at the end of the league season, their position is determined by applying these two tiebreakers: goal difference and goal scored.

In the event that the tie still persists, the teams will be placed on the same league position ranking.

Promotion and Relegation

The top leagues in the world have lower-division leagues where clubs are afforded the luxury of promotion to the major league or a devastating relegation from the major league into its lower division league.

The top leagues in the world, the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italy’s Serie A, and French Ligue 1, all have 20 teams in their top division league. Strangely, only Germany’s Bundesliga (still rated among the world’s top leagues) has an 18 team league.

All of these leagues, except the Bundesliga, will have each team play a total of 38 games fighting to accumulate the highest number of points. The Bundesliga on the other hand has each of its teams playing a total of 34 games per league season.

In the top leagues with a 20-member team, the three lowest-ranking teams get relegated to their lower division league. The three highest-ranking teams in their lower division league, get promoted into their major league respectively.

Just as stated before, the Bundesliga operates a bit differently here again. The two lowest-ranking teams in the Bundesliga get relegated into its lower division while the two highest-ranking teams get promoted into the Bundesliga.

Promotion and Relegation in English Football: How Does it Work?

Qualification for international competitions

Soccer league tables are not just for promotion and relegation of teams within and outside of the country’s two top leagues. Team rankings also help determine their qualifications for international competitions.

The top four highest-ranking teams at the end of the EPL season qualify for the next UEFA Champions League, as long as other conditions are met. Using the 20/21 EPL league table above, it means Man City, Man United, Liverpool, and Chelsea, were given a place at the 21/22 UEFA Champions League Group stage.

The fifth-ranked team in the EPL qualifies for the group stage of the UEFA Europa League. Using the 20/21 EPL table as our example, Leicester City, sitting pretty in the fifth position, qualified for the next UEFA Europa League.

The winners of the FA Cup also qualify for the group stage of the UEFA Europa League.

UEFA has rules that cater to situations where there’s a conflict of interest or qualification from another UEFA competition. This is better explained with the 20/21 EPL UEFA Europa League qualifications.

Leicester City were the winners of the 20/21 FA Cup and was also ranked in the fifth position at the end of that season. Since they had already qualified by being FA Cup winners, the next ranked team was also selected to represent the EPL. In this case, West Ham (although ranked sixth), was given the ticket into the UEFA Europa League group stage.

The Champions (League Draw): Last 16 Match-Ups 2021-22

How To Read The Soccer Table of MLS?

The structure of the play in the MLS is slightly different from what is obtainable in other top leagues around the world. The MLS is made up of a total of 27 teams. 24 of these teams are from the US while the remaining 3 teams come from Canada.

Geographically divided into the Eastern and Western Conferences, each team, with an unbalanced schedule, plays a total of 34 games. How is the schedule unbalanced?

With 27 teams in the league, each team plays a round-robin styled home and away matches with other teams in its Conference. Each team moves over to its opposite Conference and plays a single match with all the teams except four or five of them.

The Supporter’s Shield award is given to the team with the highest accumulated point at the end of the season. In addition to this, during the playoffs season, they get to play the home-field advantage.

Man checking his shoulder in soccer game

To give a better understanding of the competition, let’s take a look at the MLS 2020-21 season league tables.

American MLS League – Eastern Conference 2020/21

1New England Revolution342275736541
3Nashville SC3412184545533
4NY City3414911515636
5Atlanta Utd3413129514537
7NY Red Bulls3413912483933
8DC United3414515475654
11Inter Miami3412517413653
12Chicago Fire349718343654
14FC Cincinnati344822203774

American MLS League – Western Conference 2020/21

1Colorado Rapids3417107615135
3Kansas City3417710585840
5Minnesota Utd34131011494244
7Salt Lake3414614485554
8LA Galaxy3413912485054
9Los Angeles3412913455351
10San Jose34101113414654
12Austin FC349421313556


If teams are tied on the same number of points. The tiebreaker rule comes to play. According to the tiebreaker rule in the MLS, tied teams are separated with:

  • Total number of victories/wins
  • Goal difference (GD) – the difference between Goal Scored and Goal Against
  • Goals scored
  • Team with the least amount of disciplinary points, as stipulated by the MLS
  • Away matches goal differential
  • Total number of away goals
  • Home matches goal differential
  • Total number of home goals
  • Coin toss between two tied teams
  • Drawing of lots between three or more teams

League winners

The team with the highest points wins the league. This is arrived at by merging the tables of both Conferences into an overall MLS league table. The winner receives a Supporter’s Shield award.

Merging the MLS 20/21 league table of both Eastern and Western Conferences, New England Revolution was the winner of the league that season. Therefore, they were awarded Supporter’s Shield

In the MLS, the teams with the highest points in both conferences are selected to play in the postseason competition. The top seven teams in each of the Conferences, making a total of 14 teams, will battle it out in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

soccer player using his head to hit the ball

Using the 20/21 MLS league table for both conferences, the top 7 clubs to be chosen for the postseason competition in the Eastern Conference are New England Revolution, Philadelphia, Nashville SC, NY City, Atlanta Utd, Orlando, and NY Red Bulls.

The 7 top teams to qualify for the postseason competition in the Western Conference are Colorado, Seattle, Kansas City, Portland, Minnesota, Vancouver, and Salt Lake.

Qualification for International competition

Four or five teams are chosen from the MLS to play against other teams. These other teams are in leagues in the CONCACAF continental region. The US produces four teams while Canada brings in a team for the CONCACAF Champions League.

How are the US teams selected for qualification? Each of the winners of the two conferences gets qualification tickets to the Champions League. Conference winners are determined by the team with the highest number of points.

Using the MLS 20/21 league table, New England Revolution and Colorado Rapids, as the club’s with the highest points in each of the Conferences, were given qualification tickets to the CONCACAF

The winner of the league’s Cup (MLS Cup) becomes the third team to qualify. The 20/21 MLS Cup winner was NY City

The fourth qualification by a US team can be achieved by winning the U.S. Open Cup. With the cancellation of the competition because of the coronavirus pandemic, a fourth team was sent into the CONCACAF Champions League using the next best ranking team in the MLS league.

Seattle Sounders became the fourth team to qualify because on the overall MLS league table (merging league tables of both Conferences), Seattle had the third highest point.

The Canadian slot, under normal circumstances, is given to the winner of the Canadian Championship. The Canadian Championship winner for the 20/21 competition was CF Montréal.

Similarities with the EPL

There are few similarities about the soccer table between the MLS and the EPL.

The collated statistical data league table is the same as that of the EPL. These include:

Pos – Ranking position of the teams throughout the league’s season

Team – the names of all the club’s participating in the league

Pld – number of games played

W – the number of games won from the total number of games played

D – the number of games that ended in a draw from the total number of games played

L – the number of games that a team loss from the total number of games played

Pts – the total number of points a team has accumulated from games played

GS – number of goals scored by a team after X number of games played

GA – number of goals a team concedes after X number of games played

Before you leave

Now that we have examined soccer league tables, you don’t have to look confused when looking at the table next time.

The table is arranged this way so soccer-loving fans and sports enthusiasts, as well as clubs, coaches, staff, and players, can easily understand how teams are ranked.