When does La Liga start? Dates, format, TV & streaming for new soccer season in Spain

It’s the start of a new era for one of Europe’s top soccer leagues. La Liga in Spain kicks off its first season without Lionel Messi since 2003. But the superstar’s departure and the salary budget challenges facing giants Barcelona and Real Madrid arguably set up one of the most compelling La Liga seasons in recent history.

In the 17 seasons that Messi (Barcelona) and later Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) starred in La Liga, their teams claimed 15 of the titles. The other two went to Atletico Madrid, including last year’s championship when Atletico took advantage of stumbles by the perennial favorites to finish atop the league standings.

Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid will once again be the favorites in the 2021-2022 season, but the next tier of clubs will be dreaming of taking advantage of the air of change sweeping over La Liga and hope to do enough to make a challenge for the title. The race to avoid relegation (bottom three teams go down to second division) and to qualify for European tournaments should prove just as intriguing as the battle at the top.

WATCH: Every La Liga match in English and Spanish on ESPN+

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When does the La Liga season start?

The 2021-2022 La Liga season kicks off with the first round of matches beginning on Friday, Aug. 13. That weekend will see all 20 teams in action between Friday and Monday.

It’s the first of 38 matchdays that will be played over the next nine months, with the 38th and final matchday falling on Sunday, May 22, 2022.

The opening match on Friday, Aug. 13 will feature six-time La Liga winners Valencia CF hosting plucky Getafe. New Valencia manager Jose Bordalas will go up against the team he led for the past five seasons, guiding Getafe to promotion from the second division and then finishing in La Liga’s top 10 in three of the past four seasons.

Atletico Madrid will not have an easy opening to its title defense, traveling to face last year’s eighth-place team, Celta Vigo. Barcelona should also have its hands full with fifth-place finishers Real Sociedad. Meanwhile, Real Madrid hit the road to face a team that has caused it problems in the past: Deportivo Alaves pulled off a shocking 2-1 away win against Real Madrid just last year.

Friday, Aug. 13

MatchTime (ET)StreamTV channels
Valencia CF vs. Getafe3 p.m.ESPN+

Saturday, Aug. 14

MatchTime (ET)StreamTV channels
CA Osasuna vs. RCD Espanyol11 a.m.ESPN+
Cadiz vs. Levante UD1:30 p.m.ESPN+
RCD Mallorca vs. Real Betis1:30 p.m.ESPN+
Deportivo Alaves vs. Real Madrid4 p.m.ESPN+

Sunday, Aug. 15

MatchTime (ET)StreamTV channels
Celta Vigo vs. Atletico Madrid11:30 a.m.ESPN+
Barcelona vs. Real Sociedad2 p.m.ESPN+ABC, ESPN Deportes
Sevilla vs. Rayo Vallecano4:15 p.m.ESPN+

Monday, Aug. 16

MatchTime (ET)StreamTV channels
Villarreal vs. Granada2 p.m.ESPN+
Elche vs. Athletic Bilbao4 p.m.ESPN+

How to watch La Liga in USA

All 380 matches of the 2021-2022 La Liga season will be streamed in English and Spanish on ESPN+, kicking off the first of eight years of exclusive coverage in the USA. Select matches will also be aired on ABC, ESPN and ESPN Deportes.

  • Dates: Aug. 13, 2021 – May 22, 2022
  • Matches: Total of 380 La Liga matches in 2021-2022
  • Streaming: ESPN+ (all matches in English & Spanish)
  • TV Channels: ABC, ESPN (select matches)
  • Spanish-language TV: ESPN Deportes (select matches)

La Liga competition format

Each team plays the other 19 clubs in La Liga home and away, amounting to 38 matches. Teams claim three points for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss.

The La Liga standings are based on the points total accumulated over the course of the 38-game season. Depending on where a club finishes in the standings, that team can either win the title, earn a berth to one of three elite European club tournaments, or perhaps suffer relegation in the case of the bottom three teams.

Standings Finish
1st placeLa Liga title + UEFA Champions League berth
2nd-4th placeUEFA Champions League berth
5th-6th placeEuropa League berth*
7th placeEuropa Conference League berth*
8th-17th placeParticipation in La Liga 2022-2023
18th-20th placeRelegation to 2nd division

* = pending final number of berths assigned by European governing body, UEFA

If teams are tied on points in the standings, there are two sets of tiebreakers that are used depending on how many clubs are deadlocked:

La Liga standings tiebreakers involving two clubs:

1. Superior goal difference in league matches played between both teams
2. Superior goal difference across all league matches
3. Most goals scored across all league matches
4. Fair play point total according to disciplinary standings
5. Match to be played on neutral field (if necessary)

La Liga standings tiebreakers involving three or more clubs:

1. Superior point total in all matches between the clubs that are tied
2. Superior goal difference in all matches between the clubs that are tied
3. Superior goal difference across all league matches
4. Most goals scored across all league matches
5. Fair play point total according to disciplinary standings

Which teams have won La Liga?

There have been 90 La Liga seasons played since the first in 1929. Perennial powers Real Madrid (34) and Barcelona (26) have claimed a staggering 60 of those titles between them.

Only seven other clubs have ever laid their hands on the league trophy. Atletico Madrid, the defending La Liga champions, have 11 league championships to their name. Athletic Bilbao (8), Valencia (6) and Real Sociedad (2) are the only other teams with multiple titles.

TeamLa Liga titles
Real Madrid34
Atletico Madrid11
Athletic Bilbao8
Real Sociedad2
Deportivo La Coruna1
Real Betis1

Which team will win La Liga 2021-2022?

U.S. sportsbooks and history say it will be either Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona. No surprise there, but the order of the favorites raises an eyebrow: The defending champs, Atletico Madrid, are not being given the benefit of the doubt despite strengthening the roster over the offseason. Sevilla, Real Sociedad and Villarreal are next in line with distant hopes of potentially challenging.

The odds are all over the place when it comes to the other 14 clubs, but does it really matter? None of them is deemed a factor in the title race based on these futures.

Real Madrid+110+125+100
Atletico Madrid+275+280+275
Real Sociedad+5000+5000+5000
Real Betis+10000+10000+10000
Athletic Bilbao+15000+10000+20000
Celta Vigo+25000+10000+25000
Deportivo Alaves+80000+10000+100000
Rayo Vallecano+100000+10000N/A

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