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Primera Division Argentina

The Primera Division is the top level of Argentine football league, and is organized by the Argentine Football Association. Founded in 1893, it is currently composed of 20 teams.

The Argentine league is regarded as one of the strongest leagues in the football world. Teams from Argentina have won the Copa Libertadores, Copa Sudamericana and the now defunct Intercontinental Cup more than any other country.

The 2009 Apertura, the most recent tournament, was won by Banfield. River Plate is the most successful club in the league's history with 33 championships.


The 20 teams play two single round-robin tournaments each year: the Clausura, from February to June, and the Apertura, from August to December. Thus, there are two champions each season. Unlike most European countries, Argentina has no official cup competition.

The names of the tournaments, "Clausura", literally means Closing, and "Apertura", literally means Opening, reflect Northern Hemisphere sports seasons. This scheme was introduced in 1990 to replace the austral season, and was at the time alien to Argentines — who live in the Southern Hemisphere and are used to sports seasons that span a single calendar year . Since then, many South and Central American leagues adopted the format, including Uruguay, Mexico and [[Liga Chilena de Futbol: Primera Division|Chile]], although Uruguay is to return to austral season in 2009.

2009-10 teams

Argentinos Juniors


Atletico Tucuman


Boca Juniors

Chacarita Juniors



Gimnasia (La Plata)

Godoy Cruz




Newell's Old Boys


River Plate

Rosario Central

San Lorenzo


Velez Sarsfield

Relegation and promotion

Relegation is based on an averaging system. At the end of each season, the two teams with the worst three-year averages are relegated, and the best two teams in the second division are promoted. The teams placed 17th and 18th in the averages table play the "promocion", a promotion and relegation playoff, against the 4th and 3rd second division teams respectively in a two-leg format decided on aggregate goals, but without the away goals rule. In case of a tie, each goes back to its league of origin. Thus, the number of teams promoted each year varies between two and four. Newly-promoted teams only average the seasons since their last promotion.

Averaging was instituted in 1983, two years after San Lorenzo de Almagro were relegated in 1981. That year, River Plate finished 18th out of 19 teams and would have been relegated under the old system. Racing Club and Nueva Chicago were the first teams to be relegated on average. Boca Juniors was also struggling at that time and had a dismal 1984 season. These facts have led some to speculate that the averaging system was instituted to minimize the chance of large clubs being relegated, and indeed none of the five clubs considered to be the largest has been relegated again after 1983.

International competitions

Traditionally, two teams from Argentina have played in the Copa Libertadores each year. Since 1987, CONMEBOL has arranged other competitions, originally the now-extinct Supercopa, then Copa CONMEBOL, and lastly Copa Mercosur, all replaced by the Copa Sudamericana now. The number of Argentine teams playing the Libertadores has also gone up to five. Thus, at least five teams have an international schedule in addition to their league commitments.

Owing to the outstanding performance of Argentine clubs in international competitions, like having won the Copa Libertadores, Copa Sudamericana and now defunct Intercontinental Cup for the largest number of times, Primera Division is often considered one of the strongest leagues in the world. For example, it is consistently included in the top five or top ten strongest leagues in the world by International Federation of Football History and Statistics.

Copa Libertadores

For details of the past qualifying methods of Copa Libertadores, see Qualifying method of Copa Libertadores in Argentina

Historically, the results of the previous season determine the participation in these international competitions. The places of Copa Libertadores are allocated to the champions of Apertura and Clausura of the previous season, as well as the three best teams which have gained the highest number of points considering the combined table of Apertura and Clausura, besides the two champions. For example, Copa Libertadores 2008 was represented by Apertura 2006 champion Estudiantes, Clausura 2007 champion San Lorenzo, and the three best placed teams in the combined table of Apertura 2006 and Clausura 2007. Though Apertura 2007 was held much closer to Copa Libertadores 2008, the champion of Apertura 2007 cannot get the place because Apertura 2007 was considered to be the same season of Copa Libertadores 2008. So, champions of the Apertura have to wait for more than a year to play in the Copa Libertadores.

For Copa Libertadores 2009, the qualification criteria are changed. The champions of previous season's Apertura and Clausura, and the Apertura of the same season are also eligible to play in Copa Libertadores. The remaining two places are filled by the best two teams in the combined table of these three tournaments. For example, Copa Libertadores 2009 would be represented by the Apertura 2007 champion, Clausura 2008 champion and also Apertura 2008 champion. The remaining places are allocated to the two teams having the highest points in the combined table of these three tournaments. The Argentine Football Association has not announced the qualification arrangement beyond 2009. However, it is believed that teams will qualify to the tournament according to the results of Clausura and Apertura of the year before. For example, those five teams having the most points in the combined table of Clausura 2009 and Apertura 2009 would qualify to Copa Libertadores 2010.

The Copa Libertadores remains the most prestigious competition in South America, and the Primera Division Argentina was the most successful league in the cup's history, having won the competition for 21 times ; Independiente has a record seven wins, followed by Boca with six, Estudiantes with four, River Plate with two, and Racing Club, Argentinos Juniors and Velez Sarsfield with one apiece.

Copa Sudamericana

For Copa Sudamericana, Boca Juniors and River Plate have been joining the cup every season regardless of their position in the Primera Division, by invitation from CONMEBOL. Besides, the four best placed teams from the combined points totals in the previous season's Apertura and Clausura would also qualify to the tournament. However, starting in 2010, there will be no more invitations, and the six best placed teams of the season will be joining the cup, even when these do not include Boca Juniors or River Plate.

As three of five places of Copa Libertadores are also allocated according to the combined table, teams can qualify to both Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana through the same mechanism and Argentina teams in these two tournament are usually highly overlapped. For example, Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata, Banfield and Velez Sarsfield qualified to both Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana owing to their results in the aggregate table in season 2005/06.

The Primera Division Argentina is the most successful league in this competition, having won the trophy four times since its inception in 2002.


Amateur era (1891-1931)

In 1891 Argentina was the first country outside the United Kingdom to establish a football league. During the amateur era Alumni Athletic Club were the most successful team, with 10 championships (one under the name English High School).

Professional era (1931-1966)

Professionalism was instituted in 1931. In the early years, only teams from Buenos Aires, Greater Buenos Aires (notably Avellaneda) and La Plata were affiliated to the national association. Teams from Rosario and Santa Fe joined in later years.

A single double round-robin tournament was played each year, and the team with the most points was crowned as champion, except for 1936, during that year the winners of Copa de Honor and the Campeonato played a match for the championship title. The single tournament arrangement lasted until 1966.

During this period, the traditional "big five" clubs, namely, Boca Juniors, River Plate, Independiente, Racing and San Lorenzo dominated Argentine football. No any team besides them had won the league championship in these 36 years. The most serious title challenge came from Banfield in 1951, when they gained the same points with Racing Club in the league table. However, they lost 1-0 in the two-legged first place playoffs and gave the title to Racing.

The Metropolitano and Nacional (1967-1985)

In 1967, the single tournament format was abandoned and replaced by two championships in each year: the Metropolitano and the Nacional. The Metropolitano only allowed clubs competing the old tournament to participate, while the Nacional was open to teams from regional tournaments. The format of competition was also altered, with the double round-robin tournament be placed by the two-group championship Metropolitano and single round-robin Nacional in that year.

This change brought about a revolution in Argentine football, as small teams, like Estudiantes de La Plata at first, and Velez Sarsfield, Chacarita Juniors and others in later years, broke down the hegemony of the five clubs who had won all the championships up to that date.


The Metropolitano and Nacional had gone through several format changes throughout the period. In the first three years, the Metropolitano was a two-group championship, with the best two teams from each group competing the semi-finals of the knock-out stage.

The six best teams of each group would advance to the Nacional, with four more teams coming from regional tournaments, to compete for the Nacional championship in a single round-robin format. The seventh and eighth team of each group, alongside four teams from regional tournaments, played the Promocional tournament, which, in 1969, was replaced by the Petit tournament contested without regional teams.The ninth to twelfth teams of each group entered the Reclasificatorio tournament to determine the relegating teams.


In 1970, the format of the Metropolitano and Nacional underwent a reform. Since that year, and until 1985, the Nacional had become a group tournament with playoffs, while the Metropolitano had been competed under a single or double round-robin system, except for the 1974, 1976 and 1979 edition, which were also contested as a group tournament with playoffs.

Despite the format change in 1970, teams still entered the Nacional championship, Petit tournament and Reclasificatorio tournament according to their rankings in the Metropolitano in that year. However, in 1971, the tournaments were separated. Teams did not enter the Nacional by finishing at the top ranks of Metropolitano. On the other hand, the Petit tournament and Reclasificatorio tournament were abandoned. The Metropolitano and Nacional became two truly individual tournaments. Although the old system was reused in 1972, the separation was instituted again in 1973 and was adopted throughout the remaining Metropolitano and Nacional era.

The Metropolitano was always played first, until the order of the tournaments was reversed in 1982.

European-styled seasons (1985-1991)

Following the advice of Argentina national football team's then coach Carlos Salvador Bilardo, the structure of play was modified in 1985. Traditionally, like other countries in Southern Hemisphere, football season began and ended according to the calendar year. However, upon the reform, European style season was adopted for the first time among all the South American countries. Moreover, instead of holding two championships every year, only one double round-robin tournament was contested, like football leagues in Europe. The team topping the table at the end of season was crowned the champion.

In 1985, after the Nacional was played, the Metropolitano was not held, while the new single tournament (1985/86) was played for the first time.

In 1988/89 season, three points were given to match winners. If a draw occurred, penalty shootout was taken place and the winner of the shootout would get two points while the loser still had one. This format was waived in the following season.

Apertura and Clausura (1991-present)

Five years later, the single championship was split into two single-round tournaments, giving birth to the current Apertura and Clausura arrangement. In 1991 the two champions played winner-take-all matches. This practice was very controversial, especially since one of the biggest teams Boca Juniors lost the finals against Newell's Old Boys, costing them their first official championship since 1981 despite an unbeaten run in the Clausura. In 1992 the game was held as well (This time between Newell's Old Boys and River Plate), but regardless of the result (which favored River Plate) both teams were awarded the title of Champion. After 1992, the practice was quickly abandoned, so that two champions (on equal footing) are crowned every season and no deciding game is played.

Originally, two points were given to match winners except the 1989/90 season. In 1995/96, the rule was changed and three points were given for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss since then.

Even though the current structure provides provincial teams a road to promotion, teams from the Buenos Aires-Rosario axis still dominate. Only one team from outside this axis has ever won a title , and a reversal of this trend is unlikely to occur in the foreseeable future.

Professional era champions

For Amateur Era champions see Champions 1891-1930

;Metropolitano and National seasons

;European-styled seasons

;Apertura and Clausura seasons

Top-three finishes

Other official competitions

Other than the league tournaments, AFA also officially recognizes three other competitions.

Copa Suecia in 1958, which was held when the league was interrupted by the 1958 World Cup and was won by Atlanta

Copa Argentina in 1969, which was contested as the qualifying competition for Copa Ganadores de Copa 1970 and was won by Boca Juniors

Copa Centenario in 1993/94, which celebrated AFA's 100th anniversary and was won by Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata

These three competitions are not considered league tournaments, but the competitions are official and the championships are regarded as official titles. For example, there are "two stars" on the jersey of Gimnasia y Esgrima, representing the title of Copa Centenario and their only league title in 1929.


The all-time top scorers of Primera Division Argentina are Arsenio Erico and Angel Labruna both with 293 goals. However, Arsenio Erico holds a better percentage scoring 293 goals in 332 games compared with Angel Labruna 293 goals in 515 games. Most players on the all-time top scorers table had their golden age before 1970s, with all of the top five all-time scorers having retired before 1973. The only current player in the top twenty list is Martin Palermo, who had played for Estudiantes and Boca in the Primera Division.

See also

Football in Argentina

Argentine Football Association

List of football clubs in Argentina

Argentine football league system

Records of Primera Division Argentina

All-time Argentine First Division table

Apertura and Clausura in Argentine football

Qualifying method of Copa Libertadores in Argentina

Football rivalries in Argentina

List of Argentine football announcers

Copa Suecia

Copa Argentina de Futbol

Copa Centenario de la AFA

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Primera Division Argentina

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