The Portuguese pyramid system is changing from the 2021/22 season, with the integration of a new division, LIGA 3. Read on for a full explanation of the Liga, how promotion and relegation works and everything else you need to know.
LIGA 3, a brand new league which will sandwich itself between the current second (Liga SABSEG) and third (Campeonato de Portugal) tiers of Portuguese football, thus making the Campeonato, from next season onwards, the fourth tier of professional football in Portugal.
How does LIGA 3 work and who will be playing in it?
In its inaugural season, LIGA 3 will have 24 teams competing in it. 22 of the 24 teams will come from the Campeonato de Portugal, with the remaining two sides being the relegated teams dropping down from the current second division, Liga SABSEG.
Phases and Groups
The Liga will be split into two phases. The first phase will see the Liga split into two groups of 12 teams each, divided into North and South.
The second phase of the Liga is where the teams to be promoted (to Liga SABSEG) and the teams to be relegated (to CDP) is decided.
Who gets promoted and how?
The Fase Apuramento de Campeão or the Qualifying for Champion Phase will see the top four from both the North and South group go into their own four-team league, again split into North and South. The team that wins the North group and the team that wins the South group are automatically promoted to Liga SABSEG, these two champions from North and South will also meet in a final to decide who is the overall champion of LIGA 3.
The two teams that finish as runner up in both the North and South Champion phase group, will play each other in a semi-final play-off, the winner of this play-off will then play against the team in Liga SABSEG who finishes in the relegation play-off space. These two teams will face each other in a relegation/promotion play-off final.
Who gets relegated and how?
Those teams that didn’t make it to the Fase Apuramento de Campeão, go into the Fase Manutenção e Descida or the Maintenance and Descent Phase. This is the phase that decides which teams will remain in the division next season and which teams will be relegated into the Campeonato de Portugal, which at this point will have become the fourth tier of Portuguese football.
The Fase Manutenção e Descida will be made up of the 16 teams from both the North and South group that didn’t finish in the top four of the first phase. These 16 teams are split into four groups and the bottom team from each of the four groups will be relegated to the Campeonato de Portugal.
What is interesting to note however is that in this phase, the teams do not all start on 0 points, but instead they are awarded points based on how well they did during the first phase of the season. For example, the fifth-placed team and thus the team that most closely missed out on possible promotion, starts this phase with 8 points, the sixth-placed team with 7 and so on.