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La Liga explainer: How Spain’s top domestic soccer league operates

La Liga’s next season is about to kick off, and we’re taking a look at what to expect and what to watch whether you’re a new fan or an avid watcher of Spain’s top flight league.

Championship celebration Atletico Madrid
Koke of Atletico Madrid, Jose Maria Gimenez of Atletico Madrid, Kieran Trippier of Atletico Madrid, Angel Correa of Atletico Madrid, Jan Oblak of Atletico Madrid, Mario Hermoso of Atletico Madrid, Vitolo Machin of Atletico Madrid, Lucas Torreira of Atletico Madrid, Hector Herrera of Atletico Madrid, Luis Suarez of Atletico Madrid celebrates the championship during the Championship celebration Atletico Madrid at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano on May 23, 2021 in Madrid Spain
Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

La Liga kicks off the 2021-22 season on August 13 with one game, while the rest of the matches will take place over the following several days. If you’re not familiar with Spain’s top flight league, then we’ve got you covered! Let’s go through some of the basics and take a look at what to watch for and what to expect in La Liga’s upcoming season.

Who is the best team in La Liga?

That’s a tough one — it depends on who you ask. Of course it’s going to be between the two giants Barcelona and Real Madrid. Barcelona has been more dominant as far as titles go throughout the last decade, winning five of the last 10 league titles, while Real Madrid has only won three of those.

Who are the reigning La Liga champions?

Atletico Madrid won last year’s competition by finishing in first place with 86 points, just two points clear of second-place Real Madrid who finished with 84. Barcelona only finished with 79 points as it notched seven draws and seven losses to supplement 24 wins.

Who are the best players in La Liga?

La Liga is riddled with world-renowned names including the aforementioned Lionel Messi, but he’s now no longer going to be at Barcelona. Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, Villarreal’s Gerard Moreno, Atletico Madrid’s Luiz Suarez, and Antoine Griezmann will be the names to watch this season. Messi has won the Golden Boot honors for the last five seasons in a row, most recently finishing with 30 goals in the 2020-21 season. Someone else will take that award this year.

Who is expected to win the title this season?

With Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and even Sevilla staying in the title race last season, this year could be anyone’s title to grab as all four teams will look to make another run at the trophy. All signs usually point to Barcelona, but any number of teams could end up sitting on top after all 38 matches are finished.

Who are some notable Americans playing in La Liga?

The biggest American name in La Liga has to be Sergiño Dest. The 20-year-old full back spent some time with Dutch side Ajax in Eredevisie, but made the move to Barcelona in October of last year. He’s since made 30 appearances and scored two goals in league play, while also notching one in Champions League play in Barca’s 4-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv. Yunus Musah is also another young American in La Liga, signing with Valencia and making 32 appearances in his first season with the first team.

How can I watch La Liga in the US?

ESPN holds the rights to La Liga matches in the US as select games will air across their broadcast networks, but all La Liga matches will be available on ESPN+ both live and on demand for the foreseeable future.