La Liga -Spain's Top Football Division
La Liga, whose full name is Liga Nacional de Futbol Profesional (LFP), is the top division of association football (soccer) in Spain. The league consists of 20 teams, and during a season each team play total of 38 matches. Just as in many other European leagues, the team with the most points by the end of the season is crowned football champion.
La Liga has a long history in Spain, going all the way back to 1929. There were originally only 10 teams in the league, including Real Madrid and Barcelona, which are still two of the league's leading teams. As with any sports league, there have been ongoing rivalries between leading teams. Real Madrid has the best overall record in the league, having won 31 championships in total. Barcelona is second, with a total of 20 league titles. These two teams have pretty much dominated La Liga over the years.
Atletico Bilbao was the leading team in the early years of La Liga, winning four championships in the 1930's, and in the 1940's, Barcelona and Valencia became the dominating teams. From the 1950's and onward, however, it's mainly been a competition between Barcelona and Real Madrid, and these two teams have featured some of the world's top players. David Beckham, probably the most recognized name in the whole sport right now, played for Real Madrid from 2003 to 2007. Other star players who have helped lead this team to victory are Hugo Sanchez and Raul Gonzalez. Barcelona has also had its share of soccer greats on its team, including David Villa, Ronaldinho and Lionel Messy.
La Liga has recently emerged as the world leader in generating revenue for merchandise and licensing, surpassing England's Barclays Premier League. Virtually all of the revenue, however, is produced by Barcelona and Real Madrid, by far the league's top clubs.
Barcelona has emerged as the dominant club over the last few seasons, led by Lionel Messi who is considered by many fans and experts to be the top football player in the world right now. Aside from Messi, Barcelona has recently acquired another formidable player, David Villa, making them harder to beat than ever. Barcelona won their third consecutive La Liga title in the 2010-11 season, giving manager Josep Guardiola three straight winning seasons.
This year, the season was almost interrupted by a strike, as there was a dispute over television broadcasts of games. There is a law in Spain that a certain number of games must be shown on free television, which deprives the teams of revenue that they'd otherwise collect. The strike was averted, however, and the law has been upheld, as most teams elected to continue without a strike.
In the past few years, Spain has risen to new heights in the world of international football. In 2008 it won the UEFA European Football Championship, and in 2010, led by David Villa, it captured the most prestigious championship of all, the FIFA World Cup (something it has never done before). This has only strengthened the reputation of La Liga as one of the world's leading soccer leagues.