Clubs work like professional sports team in any sports. They are businesses who employ players to play against other teams like any traditional sports team.
It willl probably be easiest if I go from region to region by their confederations.
Everything in Elite level soccer is first organized by FIFA which is soccer/futbal/football’s global governing body. They put on the World Cup and the World Club Cup, etc.
Next level down are the Confederation, which are geographically based on continents. There are 6 different recognized Confederations: CONCACAF, UEFA, CONMEBOL, CAF (Africa), Asian Football Confederation and Oceania Federation. They are each responsible for organizing World Cup Qualification and other regionally based intra-regional tournaments for their member nations and overseeing intra-regional club tournaments within their jurisdiction.
The Confederations are made of individual country members. The countries run tournaments based within each nation and oversee leagues within their country.
Leagues are where clubs play within a country. That is a little explanation of confederations and their roles. I am only going to focus on the top leagues in a country. They also have lower leagues which replicate much of the same things.
IMPORTANT BIT OF INFO: Many Countries’ club leagues structured on a multi-layered vertical league concept. Because of this there is a concept called promotion/relegation in effect. This is where the bottom teams in an upper league at the end of the season lose their right to stay in that league and are dropped to the league directly below. The top winning teams in the lower league are promoted up to top league as reward. This way it always stays at the same number of teams but allows fresh blood into the leagues.
CONCACAF [North America, Central America & Caribbean]
The two main leagues are MLS and Liga Mx, which are based in US/Canada and Mexico respectively.
Major League S0ccer – They are a league made up of 20 or so clubs (changing a lot because new clubs are being created/joining) with a regular season where clubs play each other and accumulate points based on the system above. The one with the most points at the end of the season wins the Supporters’ Shield.
It is broken up into east and west teams (“conferences”) and the top 5-6 teams based on points move to a play-off format. They play home and away so that each team has home field advantage during the round and it can go into extra time and penalties. The ultimate winner wins the MLS Cup which played at the home of the finalist with the highest regular season points total.
There is no promotion/relegation. The season runs early March to MLS Cup final in early December.
Liga MX is the top Mexican League. It has 18 teams who play each other. They do have promotion/relegation ad play-offs as well. I think they just changed some of their rules on them and I am not as up-to-date on the changed yet.
CONCACAF Champions League (CCL)
This is a CONCACAF wide (an organized) tournament in addition to league play where the winner of the leagues (and a few other things) play each other to determine Club supremacy in the Confederation. The winner gets to play in the World Club Cup
UEFA [Union of European Footballing Associations]
UEFA cover the European countries as well as coordinate the two intra-European club tournaments: The Champions’ League and the Europa League. The Champions’ League is almost universally considered the most prestigious and hardest to earn club level trophy in the World. It is an annual competition that Real Madrid won it last year. The Europa League is the inter-UEFA tournament for second best sort of teams.
Their leagues run from late August to Early May/June for the most part (with a few exceptions). They all have promotion/relegation.
Top Five Leagues in Europe are La Liga (Spain), Barclay’s/English Premier League (England), Serie A (Italy), Bundesliga (Germany) and Ligue Un (France) in no order here but it is a topic that is hotly and continually debated.
LA LIGA Biggest Teams: Real Madrid and Barcalona. When they play, it is called “El Clasico.” They are considered widely the best league from a quality of play standpoint. They also have some serious issues with racism.
BPL/EPL Biggest Teams: Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester United. This is European league that Americans, generally, are most familiar and have easiest access. Every league match is broadcast live in the States.
SERIE A Biggest Teams: Juventus and AC Milan. This is one of the leagues which is starting to grow in American viewership but access is still random. It has become my favorite to watch recently but they also have some serious issues with racism.
BUNDESLGA Biggest Teams: Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. This league was nearly impossible to watch in the US unless their teams were in the Champions League. That will change not this season about to start but the next season when the rights move from GolTV to Fox Sports.
LIGUE UN Biggest Team: Paris Saint-Germain. I do not know a lot about the league because access has been restricted in the US until last season really. It is very much up and coming back. I am just learning and will learn more soon.
CONMEBOL, CAF and Asian Football Confederation and Oceania Federation
I honestly don’t know enough to speak authoritatively about them individually. There is every little broadcast coverage for the most part. You can catch games here or there but not as consistently as I would like. The reality is much of the leagues contained here are feeder leagues for UEFA club teams.
CONMBOL Copa Libertadores – South American club champions league tournament. It is really spectacular to watch with a lot of young/will be future global stars. It is a place that European scouts mine for gold.
WORLD CLUB CUP is the FIFA international tournament that has the winner of the Asian AFC Champions League, African CAF Champions League, North American CONCACAF Champions League, South American Copa Libertadores, Oceanian OFC Champions League or European UEFA Champions League. They play single elimination matches with overtime and penalties in December of each year