Argentine football is not known for isn’t stability. At least not recently.
For years they had a 20 team first division and played two short championships. Then in 2014/15 they decided they would expand the league to 30 teams. That turned out to be a disaster, so, they decided they would start to dwindle the league back down to a more manageable number. While it was never made known how many teams that would be, most assumed they would arrive at 20 or 22. This was to be done by relegating four teams each year and promoting two.
While all this was happening, for the 2017-2018 season, the Superliga was created, a separate entity apart from the Argentine Football Association (AFA). While there were some political reasons for the change, its main motivation was financial with the goal bringing in more money from TV and marketing and helping the clubs become more self-sufficient.
Everything seemed to be heading in the right direction, the first division went from 30 to 28 clubs, 28 to 26, and last season, 26 to 24. The plan was the drop down again to 22 when just a few days prior to the start of the season the clubs voted to lower the number of relegated teams from four to three.
And now, 22 matches into the season with only 12 more matches which count towards relegation to be played, the clubs have voted to make another amendment to the plan. It was voted by the AFA (not the Superliga) that next season will again be played with 24 clubs.
So, is this good news for the teams in the first division? Yes and no. There is still a chance that three teams will be relegated, but also a chance that only two will go down. Could be good news for Diego Maradona’s Gimnasia. Here’s how it will work.
The teams that finish 24th and 23rd in the promedios will automatically be relegated. The team that finishes 22nd will play a one match final against a team from the Primera Nacional – win and stay up, lose and get relegated.
And how does this work out for the second division clubs?
Current structure has two 15 team divisions. The teams that win each division will play each other to determine who gets the first automatic promotion spot. The loser of that final will play in the reducido (playoff) along with the teams that finished second, third, and fourth in each zone. The team that wins the final of the reducido will get the second promotion spot. The team that loses that match will get one final chance to gain promotion – this is the team that will face off against 22nd place from the Superliga promedios.
So, either two or three teams will go down and two or three will go up, which leaves the Superliga with 24 clubs next season. And that takes us to another topic, will the Superliga even be around next year?
As previously mentioned, the goal of the Superliga was to make more money, unfortunately, with the exceptions of Boca and probably River, every club is still struggling to get by. The bushels of money they thought would be rolling in have not shown up. And this has the teams, well, a little upset. As always, life looks greener on the other side and the idea of returning to the old model with the first division being controlled by the AFA looks more and more appealing.
For the clubs, fans, and players, what all does this mean?
Not quite sure yet. It could mean the return to short seasons, it could mean the return of free football with Futbol Para Todos, it could mean several changes, or it could mean next to no changes. Hopefully it means the stabilization of first league football in Argentina, but who are we kidding, change is actually not change, it is the norm, and we should expect nothing else.