English football rivalry is often rooted in Geography. In addition to the traditional competition avenues (economy, crime, desirability to move), cities also compete in sports. In fact, the most significant English Rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool goes beyond football. In the late 1800s, the Manchester Ship Canal building allowed trade ships to bypass Liverpool’s port and dock straight at Manchester. This transformed the Manchester area’s economy, at the expense of the Liverpool economy, starting a rivalry between the two cities that permeated sports as well.
Being the largest city in the UK, London has numerous professional soccer teams that play in the various English leagues. The city has created several competitive derbies, including, of course, the famous North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. Or the Northwest London derbies between Chelsea and Arsenal / Tottenham Hotspur. Naturally, people may be curious about how many soccer teams are in London and who the top teams are. Below, I go over the facts on London based clubs.
Number of Soccer Teams in London
Professional Football Clubs: There are 12 professional clubs in London. They participate in the English Premier League (EPL), the English Football League (EFL) Championship, the EFL League 1, and the EFL League 2.
Best Soccer Teams In London
How do the professional London-based clubs rank? There is no definite answer. For example, Charlton Athletic was a regular EPL club between 1995-2007 but now competes in the third tier of English football (EFL League 1). Arsenal, a fierce rival of Manchester United in the EPL in the early 2000s, haven’t seriously competed for the EPL title since then. It is very simple to establish a contemporaneous ranking for London-based clubs by simply examining their respective leagues’ current positions. Still, I believe that ignores the rich history of some of these clubs.
To accurately rank the London-based clubs, I assessed the following factors:
- Number of years in the top tiers of English football
- Number of trophies won
- Size of fan-base
This got me to the below list. Fair warning, this is just an opinion based on my research. I don’t want to provoke any fan hate! Moreover, I’m a Man United fan, so I do not have a strong bias towards any particular London club. Right, here’s how the 6 EPL London-based football clubs rank.
Best EPL Teams in London
Sorry, Chelsea fans. But Arsenal is my pick for the top London based club. Yes, it’s not reflective of the current state of affairs (Arsenal sit at 15th in the EPL table, their worst start for 45 years), but recent form isn’t the only indicator of a team’s success.
The initial Wenger years cemented Arsenal’s reputation as a top, top club. The fierce rivalry between Sir Alex and Le Professeur (as Wenger was affectionately known) was incredible. It translated to an equally fierce rivalry on the pitch. Roy Keane and Patrick Viera still reminisce about those days.
Incredibly, Arsenal’s last EPL title came in the 2003-2004 season, where they remained unbeaten in the league. The squad was coined the “invincibles,” and the feat has never been repeated by any other club since.
Arsenal’s trophy tally of 48 trophies is only bettered by two English clubs: Manchester United and Liverpool.
Chelsea’s success has been more recent, which is why if you were born in the 2000s, you’d rightfully wonder why they occupy second place in this list. Jose Mourinho’s arrival from Porto in 2004 changed the landscape of the Premier League. It was no longer a two-horse race between Man United and Arsenal. A new sheriff was in town, a special one if you will. Mourinho brought league success back to Chelsea, winning three times in 2 different spells: 2005, 2006, and 2015. He created strong-willed, organized teams that refused to concede and played ruthless, clinical football.
Chelsea’s tally of 31 trophies is several titles shy of Arsenal’s 48. But if you go on the last 15 years, there’s no doubt Chelsea has had a better run than Arsenal. Sparks certainly fly when the two clubs meet in the Northwest London derby, and they’ve produced some tasty encounters. Both teams are now managed by former players: Frank Lampard for Chelsea and Mikel Arteta for Arsenal.
- Tottenham Hotspurs
They have a reputation for being the “almost” club, but Tottenham Hotspurs have been a staple in the EPL since its inception. While they haven’t tasted extensive success in league titles (they only have 2), Spurs have been a strong force competing for European football. They are usually ending in one of the top 6 spots for guaranteed participation in either the Champions League or the Europa League (formerly UEFA Cup).
During Mauricio Pochettino’s spell at the club, Spurs built consistency in attaining top 4 finishes on a tightened transfer budget and playing attractive football. However, they never seemed to get over that final hurdle to get them a title. They lost the 2019 Champions League final to Liverpool. In the following season, Pochettino was replaced by serial winner Jose Mourinho, hoping to break the league duck for Spurs.
- West Ham United
Famous for their die-hard fan base, West Ham United is a club with a rich history and a consistent presence in the top tier of English football. Their most successful period in terms of trophies came in the mid-60s to the late 70s, where they scooped up the FA Cup three times. West Ham have never fallen below the second division of English football, one of only a handful of teams to achieve that.
West Ham are enjoying a relatively good season at the moment, sitting on the top half of the table in 7th place. Manager David Moyes brings with him extensive premier league experience from his time at Everton and Manchester United. He seems to have brought some stability and organization to the team.
- Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace is a South London football club that has had a long run in the EPL. After recovering from a financial crisis in the late nineties through 2010, Palace have re-established themselves in the EPL for the last ten years. Crystal Palace certainly aren’t title winners or chasers, but they’ve been part of exciting relegation battles and have fought with grit and perseverance. Currently managed by Roy Hodgson, they sit in 11th place and have players like Wilfried Zaha in their ranks.
Established in 1879, Fulham is the oldest London football club playing professionally. They’ve moved around the English football divisions but had their longest EPL run between 2001-2014. Following that, they spent four years in the EFL championship before bouncing back in the EPL. They sit in 17th place at the moment and are managed by former player Scott Parker.
Best EFL Teams in London
In addition to the 6 EPL teams, an additional 6 London-based football clubs participate in the lower divisions of English Football. These teams compete in the EFL Championship, League 1, and League 2. Some of these teams have had runs in the EPL before, which I factor in for their rankings.
- Charlton Athletic
Charlton Athletic is a South London club that had a long EPL run between 1995-2007. They are currently in 6th position in the EFL League 1. They were relegated from the Championship after ending up in the 22nd spot last season.
- Queens Park Rangers (QPR)
QPR is a West London club that has had sporadic periods in the EPL. I have a bitter relationship with this club, being a Manchester United fan. They gifted the 2012-2013 title to Manchester City (remember “Agueroooooo”) after having an upper hand in the game. They are currently in 18th position in the second tier of English football (Championship)
The top eight football clubs above probably are the best London-based clubs in the top four tiers of English football based on their historical success and their runs in the premier league. Four other London based clubs are competing in the EFL divisions, and I list them below, in no particular order.
- AFC Wimbledon (currently 14th in League 1)
- Brentford (6th in the Championship)
- Leyton Orient (8th in League 2)
- Millwall (14th in the Championship)
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Amateur Football Clubs Are There In London?
This is a tough figure to establish given the lack of proper documentation for non-professional football. However, sources claim there are anywhere between 80-90 amateur football clubs in London.
How Many London Football Clubs Play In The Premier League?
Six London-based clubs play in the EPL: Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Tottenham, and West Ham United.
How Many Professional Teams Are There In England?
In England’s top four leagues (EPL, EFL Championship, EFL League 1, and EFL League 2), there are 92 football clubs.
London contributes 13% of the clubs in the top four divisions of English Football. Twelve London teams compete in the EPL and EFL divisions. Of these, six currently compete in the top flight. Some of the football clubs competing in the EFL division have had runs in the top flight as well. London teams have created fierce rivalries resulting in interesting Derby encounters. I personally love watching the North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham; independent of their individual positions in the league, they always entertain!