Dutch Football Leagues

Dutch football competition is one of the most famous football competitions in Europe. However, in terms of popularity, the competition is far behind that of the best-received countries such as England, Germany, Italy, and France.

A piece of history

For many years the Dutch league has been part of the top five in the list of coefficients that the UEFA uses to determine how many clubs a country can register in the various European tournaments. A fifth place was achieved for the first time in the 1957/58 season. However, it took until the 1969/70 season before the Netherlands was back in it. Thanks to Feyenoord's European Cup I win that season, the Netherlands even ended up in second place behind England. The next three years Ajax won the same European Cup I. The Netherlands did however not reach higher than two third places and a fourth spot in the league rankings of those seasons. 

However, the tone was set and in the following years, two fourth places and even one second place were achieved. In the 1977/78 season, the Netherlands was in first place in this ranking for the first time. Remarkable, because Ajax was already beaten by Juventus in the quarterfinals of the European Cup I. The biggest surprise that season was caused by FC Twente, which reached the semi-final of the European Cup II. In which it was defeated by the final winner RSC Anderlecht from Belgium who managed to beat Austria Wien in the final with 4-0. However, this was not all, as another Dutch team, PSV Eindhoven, won the UEFA Cup that season. SEC Bastia was beaten 3-0 in the final. This achievement was repeated in the 1980/81 season. While Ajax was eliminated in the second round of the European Cup I, Feyenoord reached the semi-final of the European Cup II and AZ Alkmaar was in the final of the UEFA Cup in which it lost to Ipswich Town over two legs. 

This was the turning point because after this the Netherlands did not return to the top five until the 1986/87 and 1987/88 seasons. In that last season PSV Eindhoven won the European Cup I. In the early nineties the Netherlands entered the top three again. After Ajax won the Champions League in 1994/95 the first place was reached again in the 1995/96 season. The Netherlands only sporadically entered the top five after that, eventually with a negative dip (29th) in the 2017/18 season. The Netherlands has been rising up the rankings again in recent years. 

Current situation

The fact is that the Dutch clubs are burdened by the financial aggressiveness of the major competitions and so they no longer come close to reaching the level they used to do. At least, every now and then a team can still compete with the top teams in the other competition as Ajax did in the last few seasons. 

The leading Dutch teams have already been named. Ajax is by far the most successful club in the history of Dutch football. Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven complement the top three. These three clubs have never been relegated from the Eredivisie to a lower level. Other teams can every now and then get into the top three and in some cases even become champions. AZ Alkmaar has ended up in the top three most often in recent history and is (for now) in there again this season. 

In the current season, Ajax is still at the top, but the end of the competition is in sight and AZ Alkmaar remains close by, especially considering the latest negative results from Ajax. Feyenoord has also started to rise and has still not lost under the new manager and living legend Dick Advocaat. Of all the clubs in the ten highest-ranked football leagues, only Liverpool FC has more points in their last 10 matches than Feyenoord. Lazio Roma, Paris Saint-Germain, and Shakhtar Donetsk won 26 points, just like Feyenoord, where FC Barcelona managed to win all 30 points. If Feyenoord retains this form, they may still be able to become champions this season.

The football/soccer pyramid


The football pyramid of the Netherlands currently consists of 10 levels. The Eredivisie in which the clubs mentioned previously play is the highest attainable level. 18 clubs have been playing in this league since its foundation. It has been the case in most years that of this league that only the club in last position relegates to the second level, the First Division, which is nowadays called the Keuken Kampioen Divisie. The numbers 16 and 17 then played play-off matches against clubs from the Keuken Kampioen Divisie, so that they could possibly play in the Eredivisie for another year, or still be relegated. With effect from the current season, that set-up has changed slightly. Now the numbers 17 and 18 relegate directly and it is only the number 16 that has to play in the play-offs.

First Division

The Keuken Kampioen Divisie has consisted of 20 clubs in recent years. This has changed a lot due to financial mismanagement. A number of clubs have therefore gone bankrupt and were taken out of the competition. Four of the 20 clubs are currently youth teams from Eredivisie clubs, Young Ajax, Young PSV, Young AZ, and Young Utrecht. Young Feyenoord would have been the most logical other team to be included. However, when this opportunity arose, Feyenoord decided not to go along with it and they chose to continue playing in the youth competition. A number of other clubs decided to do the same, but there are also clubs whose youth teams play at lower levels in the football pyramid. Feyenoord has since regretted the decision that was made then and would prefer to join the pyramid now, but this is not yet possible. Conversations in the future will ultimately have to make this happen.

Promotion and relegation from the First Division to the Second Division is one of the biggest issues in Dutch football. Whereas in almost all countries in the world a promotion/relegation scheme applies from the highest to the lowest level, this is not the case in the Netherlands. There have been promotions and relegations in the past, but in the majority of the years this did not actually happen. 

Relegation from the First to the Second Division has been repeatedly opened and closed in recent years. Only twice did a club really relegate, starting with FC Oss in the 2009/2010 season. A year later they did not become champions of the Second Division, but they still promoted back because champions IJsselmeervogels did not want to promote. This is exactly the reason why there is so much discussion. Most clubs in the Second Division do not want to be promoted because they cannot compete financially with the clubs in the First Division. They are afraid of the risk that they will go bankrupt, just like a number of predecessors. 

Throughout the years there were three clubs that did want to promote, namely AGOVV Apeldoorn, FC Omniworld (now Almere City) and Achilles ‘29. All three were added to the First Division at one point without actually being promoted from the Second Division. AGOVV went bankrupt a year later. Achilles '29 was the second and last team to relegate in recent years in the 2016/17 season. They were then replaced by Young AZ. This increased the number of Young teams in the First Division from three to four. The question is when the promotion/relegation scheme will become active again. For the time being, no club will be relegated and neither will there be a promotion until further notice.

Second Division

The Second Division is currently the highest competition at the amateur level. Because of the financial differences discussed above, the Second Division was created as some kind of intermediate competition between professional football and amateur football. The matches of the Second Division are therefore broadcasted on television, both with highlights as well as live coverage. Previously, amateur competitions were never shown live or in summary on television.

As the promotion/relegation scheme between the Second Division and the First Division is no longer in force, the question is to what extent this setup can be considered successful. The clubs themselves do not mind since the majority still does not want to promote to the professional level. Two teams are relegated directly from the Second to the Third Division. Two other teams will have to play play-offs against teams from the Third Division. So a total of four teams can relegate.

Other Divisions

The Third Division consists of two competitions of 18 clubs, one half playing the games on Saturday, the other on Sunday. Under the Third Division is the Hoofdklasse which consists of four divisions of 16 clubs. This is followed by the First, the Second, the Third, the Fourth, and the Fifth Klasse. The Fifth Klasse is currently the lowest and tenth level in the Dutch football pyramid. Each Klasse consists of several divisions in which teams can promote and relegate.

Offer at the bookmakers

Among the online bookmakers, we usually find the Eredivisie and First Division matches. With a few bookmakers, it is also possible that you can find the matches of the Second Division. In addition, you will also find the matches of the national cup (KNVB Cup) and the Johan Cruijff-schaal (Dutch Super Cup) at most bookmakers. There are also a number of bookmakers who have Dutch youth football available for betting. Women’s football is also something that you can find at some bookmakers. In the Netherlands women’s football has grown enormously in recent years and is currently very popular. This was initially because the Netherlands organized the European Championship for women in 2017. 


The popularity grew when the Netherlands became European Champions. The players were honored on tour boats through the city of Utrecht and eventually ended up on a large square with a lot of fans. The level of the women's football competition in the Netherlands increased with the successes of the national team. This was to the advantage of the popularity of the competition and the quality of the players, who even reached the final of the World Championship in 2019. They eventually lost to the American team. Just like the Dutch men who have already lost the final of a World Championship three times, the women remain stuck on one won European Championship and a lost World Cup final.

Betting Tips

The Dutch competitions are very strong when it comes to offensive play. The defenders are generally less good than the attackers, which means that in most cases many goals are scored. This can be very useful information for when you are going to bet on the number of goals that will be scored during a match. Of the top teams, you can almost be sure that they will score at least twice, but the smaller clubs also have good chances to score against the top teams. Lower ranked clubs facing each other also often ends up in a goal galore match. Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV win almost all their matches, so the odds on these teams are often very low. Yet these teams are also surprised several times a year by the weaker teams in this competition. If you dare to make that prediction and it happens, then your balance can rise considerably.

The First Division and the Second Division (in case you can find them at your bookmaker) are extremely difficult to predict. Almost every club can beat the other, meaning you will come across many surprises. You’ll again have a good opportunity to bet on matches in which many goals are scored. Besides that, you can also place a bet every now and then against the favorite team. The chance that the underdog will eventually win is certainly present. It happens that a mid-table team wins an away game 2-7 from a team in the top five, but a week later, for example in their own stadium, loses 0-3 from the team that is bottom of the league. Pick the best matches and get your profit out of it.