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Brazilian football league system

Brazilian football league system
Map of Brazil
 Distrito Federal
 Espírito Santo
 Mato Grosso
 Mato Grosso do Sul
 Minas Gerais
 Rio de Janeiro
 Rio Grande do Norte
 Rio Grande do Sul
 Santa Catarina
 São Paulo
Current National Champions (2018)
Série A: Palmeiras

Série B: Fortaleza

Série C: Operário

Série D: Ferroviário

Copa do Brasil: Cruzeiro

The Brazilian football league system is a series of interconnected leagues for football clubs in Brazil. It consists of several independent pyramids, which are the national pyramid and the state pyramids. As those pyramids are independent, clubs usually compete in both pyramids in the same year (a state and a national one). Both the national pyramid and the state pyramids consist of several different levels. The best placed teams in the state championships as well as the best ranked clubs in CBF's ranking compete in the Copa do Brasil.


There are two simultaneous and independent pyramids in the Brazilian football, the national pyramid, and the state pyramid.

While the national competitions are organized by CBF, the state championships are organized by the respective football federations of each state (for example, the Campeonato Pernambucano is organized by the Pernambuco Football Federation).

The national pyramid competitions start in May and end in December. The state pyramid has varying durations and schedules in each state. In states with clubs competing in the national first and second divisions, the state championships run from January/February to April/May.

Most states have at least one secondary tournament, involving smaller clubs not in the top two leagues of the national championship. These lesser championships runs from July to December. Besides the trophy, it may award the winner(s) places in the main tournament or in the Brazilian Cup next year.

Smaller states, whose clubs do not take part in national competitions have longer competitions, usually running during the "winter" months: April to October.

National championships

In the national pyramid, there are four leagues, the Série A, Série B, the Série C and the Série D. The Série A, Série B and Série C currently consist of 20 teams each. Série D was contested by 40 teams, expanded to 68 in 2016. Série A and Série B are contested in a double-round-robin format by all clubs; Série C and Série D have regional groups. Before 2009 there was no Série D and the Série C had 64 teams in regionalized groups. Each year, the four worst placed clubs in the Série A are relegated to the Série B and the four top placed clubs in the Série B are promoted to Série A. This relation of four promoted and four relegated is the same for the other levels.

The clubs competing in the Série D are the best placed state championship clubs of the same season which are not competing in the Série A, B or C. Clubs that are successful in their state leagues can rise higher in the pyramid, being promoted to the Série D, and eventually to higher levels. Some state federations organize special competitions with the purpose of qualifying teams to the Série D.

As a result of the rules detailed above, it is possible (and not unheard of) for a minor state championship club to rise to the Série A, and become successful in the competition. To achieve this, a club must qualify in the state championship and, later, qualify in Séries D, C and B.

Examples of clubs that went all the way up from the least state league until Série A are: Paraná Clube (founded in 1989, played Série A in 1993), São Caetano (founded in 1989, played Série A in 2000 and finished runner-up), Brasiliense (founded in 2000, played Série A in 2005), Grêmio Barueri (founded in 1989, played Série A in 2009) and Ipatinga (founded 1998, to play Série A in 2008). None of them are in 2015 Série A, but Paraná and São Caetano had a relative success in Série A for a while. Brasiliense and Ipatinga, however, never played a second year in this competition, being quickly relegated to Série B. Grêmio Barueri, for its part, only lasted in the first level for two years, before being relegated. The latter three teams eventually participated in the Série D in 2014, failing on achieving promotion.

The reverse is also possible: a club from Série A can eventually be relegated to the very least state league. A recent example is the rich in history América-MG (founded in 1912, relegated from Série A in 2001, to Série C in 2005 and to state second division in 2007). América played in the Série C in 2008 and 2009, avoiding the Série D. The club is back to National competitions and to its state first division, reaching Série A in 2011, although relegated to Série B in 2012. Currently, at least seven clubs (Fluminense, Náutico, Fortaleza, Vitória, Bahia, Guarani and América-MG) have been relegated to Série C and successfully reappeared in Série A. Santa Cruz, a Série A club in 2006, fell to Série D in 2010, but in 2016 is back to the top flight. Other clubs formerly in Série A, that were relegated to Séries C, D and below have not so far recovered their strength. For example, América-RJ (as of 2014, in the state second division), Remo (as of 2016, in the Série C), Juventude (as of 2016, in the Série C), Fortaleza (as of 2016, in the Série C), Guarani (as of 2016, in the Série C) and Paysandu (as of 2016, in the Série B).

State championships

In the state pyramid, which consists of several independent state championships, the participating clubs, which also include Série A, Série B and Série C clubs, are limited to their own states (however, there are some minor exceptions, like in the Campeonato Brasiliense, where Unaí from Minas Gerais, and Luziânia and Bosque Formosa Esporte Clube from Goiás also compete, due to their proximity to Brasília, the capital of the Brazilian Federal District.[1] The leagues are usually divided in two, three or four levels. The number of clubs per level, as well as the number of levels, are different in each state. For example, in São Paulo there are 20 clubs in the first level, but in Rio de Janeiro there are 16, and in Rondônia there are just eight clubs. Also, the number of promoted and relegated clubs are different from one state to the other. Since 2009, the best placed clubs in the state leagues not already qualified for Série A, B, or C qualify for the Série D.

State championships may include obscure formats or experiment with proposed innovations in rules. As the Série A, Série B and Série C clubs usually have to be seeded to avoid fixture congestion, some rules adopted may be quite unfair. In the 2008 Campeonato Carioca, the big four (Botafogo, Flamengo, Fluminense and Vasco da Gama) always played home against the other participating clubs.[2]

State cups

The state cups are usually played during the second half of the year, after the state championships have concluded. The participating teams are clubs not competing in the national championships and reserve teams of clubs competing in the national championships. Examples of such competitions are the Copa FGF, the Copa Paulista de Futebol and the Copa Rio.

Inter-state championships

Several inter-state club championships have been held along the decades, such as the Torneio Rio-São Paulo (1933-1966, 1993, 1997-2002), Copa Centro-Oeste (1999-2002), Copa Norte (1997-2002), Copa Sul-Minas (2000-2002), Copa do Nordeste (held intermittently since 1994), Copa Verde (since 2014), and Primeira Liga (2016-2017).

Copa do Brasil

The Copa do Brasil is contested between the winners and best placed clubs of the previous season state championships, and by the best placed clubs in the CBF ranking. From 2013, it is played between the months of April and November.

Current system

Level League/Division
National Championships
1 Campeonato Brasileiro Série A
20 clubs
Bottom four teams relegated
2 Campeonato Brasileiro Série B
20 clubs
Top four teams promoted
Bottom four teams relegated
3 Campeonato Brasileiro Série C
20 clubs divided in 2 groups of 10
Semifinalists promoted
Bottom two teams of each group relegated
4 Campeonato Brasileiro Série D
68 clubs divided in 17 groups of 4
Semifinalists promoted
No relegation1
State Championships1
5 State Championships Top Divisions
Acre - Alagoas - Amapá - Amazonas - Bahia - Ceará - Distrito Federal - Espírito Santo - Goiás - Maranhão - Mato Grosso - Mato Grosso do Sul - Minas Gerais - Pará - Paraíba - Paraná - Pernambuco - Piauí - Rio de Janeiro - Rio Grande do Norte - Rio Grande do Sul - Rondônia - Roraima - Santa Catarina - São Paulo - Sergipe - Tocantins
6 State Championships Second Divisions
Acre - Alagoas - Amazonas - Bahia - Ceará - Distrito Federal - Espírito Santo - Goiás - Maranhão - Mato Grosso - Mato Grosso do Sul - Minas Gerais - Pará - Paraíba - Paraná - Pernambuco - Rio de Janeiro - Rio Grande do Norte - Rio Grande do Sul - Santa Catarina - São Paulo - Sergipe - Tocantins
7 State Championships Third Divisions
Ceará - Goiás - Minas Gerais - Paraná - Rio de Janeiro - Rio Grande do Sul - Santa Catarina - São Paulo
8 State Championships Fourth Divisions
Rio de Janeiro - São Paulo

1The state championships are not officially hierarchically behind the Série D, but they are used by CBF as a way to promote clubs to the competition.

The teams playing in the four national divisions also play the state championships in the same year.

The state championships are the lowest level for professional clubs.

There are amateur competitions too, organized by the federation of each city. However, they are closed, and can't make it to the state main division without the approval of the board.

Current teams in Campeonato Brasileiro

Teams by state

In 2019 the following states will have teams in Series A, B and C. Rules for classification: 1) Most teams in A+B+C; 2) Most teams in A+B; 3) Most teams in A

Pos. State A B C Total
1 São Paulo (state) São Paulo 4 6 0 10
2 Rio Grande do Sul Rio Grande do Sul 2 1 3 6
3 Paraná (state) Paraná 1 4 0 5
4 Rio de Janeiro (state) Rio de Janeiro 4 0 1 5
5 Minas Gerais Minas Gerais 2 1 2 5
6 Santa Catarina (state) Santa Catarina 2 2 0 4
7 Goiás Goiás 1 2 0 3
8 Ceará Ceará 2 0 1 3
9 Pernambuco Pernambuco 0 1 2 3
10 Alagoas Alagoas 1 1 0 2
Bahia Bahia 1 1 0 2
12 Mato Grosso Mato Grosso 0 1 1 2
13 Maranhão Maranhão 0 0 2 2
Pará Pará 0 0 2 2
Paraíba Paraíba 0 0 2 2
Rio Grande do Norte Rio Grande do Norte 0 0 2 2
17 Acre (state) Acre 0 0 1 1
Sergipe Sergipe 0 0 1 1

The teams from each state participating in the 2019 Campeonato Brasileiro Series A, B and C are listed below. Participation in Serie D varies every year.

Serie A

Number of teams State Team(s)
4  Rio de Janeiro Botafogo, Flamengo, Fluminense, Vasco da Gama
 São Paulo Corinthians, Palmeiras, Santos, São Paulo
2  Ceará Ceará, Fortaleza
 Minas Gerais Atlético Mineiro, Cruzeiro
 Rio Grande do Sul Grêmio, Internacional
 Santa Catarina Avaí, Chapecoense
1  Alagoas CSA
 Bahia Bahia
 Goiás Goiás
 Paraná Athletico Paranaense

Serie B

Number of teams State Team(s)
6  São Paulo Botafogo-SP, Bragantino, Guarani, Oeste, Ponte Preta, São Bento
4  Paraná Coritiba, Londrina, Operário Ferroviário, Paraná
2  Goiás Atlético Goianiense, Vila Nova
 Santa Catarina Criciúma, Figueirense
1  Alagoas CRB
 Bahia Vitória
 Mato Grosso Cuiabá
 Minas Gerais América Mineiro
 Pernambuco Sport
 Rio Grande do Sul Brasil de Pelotas

Serie C

Number of teams State Team(s)
3  Rio Grande do Sul Juventude, São José, Ypiranga
2  Maranhão Imperatriz, Sampaio Corrêa
 Minas Gerais Boa Esporte, Tombense
 Pará Paysandu, Remo
 Paraíba Botafogo-PB, Treze
 Pernambuco Náutico, Santa Cruz
 Rio Grande do Norte ABC, Globo
1  Acre Atlético Acreano
 Ceará Ferroviário
 Mato Grosso Luverdense
 Rio de Janeiro Volta Redonda
 Sergipe Confiança

State league pyramid examples

The Campeonato Paulista table below is an example of a state league pyramid. It is divided in four levels. The first three levels are disputed by a fixed number of teams each, while the fourth level can be disputed by any clubs not in the first three levels. As of 2019, 41 teams had taken place on the state's fourth level. The competitions are organized by the São Paulo Football Federation.

Campeonato Paulista
Level League/Division
1 Série A1
16 clubs
2 Série A2
16 clubs
3 Série A3
16 clubs
4 Segunda Divisão
41 clubs

The Campeonato Catarinense table below is another example of a state league pyramid. It is divided in three levels. The first two levels are disputed by 10 teams each. As of 2018 the third level was disputed by only 8 clubs. The competitions are organized by the Santa Catarina Football Federation.

Campeonato Catarinense
Level League/Division
1 Série A
10 clubs
2 Série B
10 clubs
3 Série C
8 clubs

The Campeonato Mineiro table below is another example of a state league pyramid. It is divided in three levels. The first and second levels are played by 12 teams each. As of 2018, the third level had 13 participants. The competitions are organized by the Minas Gerais Football Federation.

Campeonato Mineiro
Level League/Division
1 Módulo I
12 clubs
2 Módulo II
12 clubs
3 Segunda Divisão
13 clubs


  1. ^ "Favorito ao título, Brasiliense apenas empata com o Esportivo" (in Portuguese). FBA (Futebol Brasil Associados). Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved August 7, 2007. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  2. ^ "Carioca de 2008 tem fórmula e grupos definidos" (in Portuguese). Gazeta Esportiva. Archived from the original on January 15, 2008. Retrieved February 11, 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)

External links