When do European leagues start?
Dimitri Payet's Marseille will hope to challenge PSG for the Ligue Un title this year, while Bundesliga's late start will give Bayern some time off after their Champions League run. Adam Pretty/EPA.

Almost every European soccer season has finished months behind schedule in 2019-20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and those delays will have a knock-on effect in the campaign to come.

A shortened summer break will see most of the continent’s major leagues kick off their 2020-21 seasons in September, with the exception of France’s Ligue 1, which is set to start today, Friday, August 21 with Bordeaux vs Nantes.

Sports authorities will hope they’ve seen the last of any coronavirus-related disruptions at least, and dates are now in place for when we can expect each major European division to start the upcoming season.

Ligue 1

2020-21 Start Date: Friday, August 21
End Date: Sunday, May 23
Defending Champion: Paris Saint-Germain (3rd successive title)

Ligue 1 will be the first of Europe’s major leagues to begin its 2020-21 season, and by some distance after ending their 2019-20 campaign in early May, deciding the table on a points-per-game basis.

Paris Saint-Germain were crowned champions for the third year running, a result few could argue with considering they had a 12-point lead with one game in hand. Amiens’ relegation to Ligue 2 was a more controversial decision, however; Toulouse’s less so given the gulf between them and safety.

Taking that duo’s place in the first tier will be Lorient and Lens, who finished a respective first and second in the 2019-20 Ligue 2 season.

Despite an earlier start compared to its European peers, Ligue 1 still plans to end the coming campaign in alignment with most others on May 23, 2021.

Premier League

2020-21 Start Date: Saturday, September 12
End Date: Sunday, May 23
Defending Champion: Liverpool

Just 48 days will separate the end of the previous Premier League campaign from the beginning of its next act, which will see Liverpool attempt to defend their first top-flight crown in some 30 years.

Manchester City have edged ahead as favorites to reclaim the league title after coming a distant second, and it won’t be long until the latest Premier League rivalry is reignited.

Leeds United are back among England’s elite after 16 years away, while West Bromwich Albion also return and will be joined by one of Brentford or Fulham, who contest the Championship play-off final on August 4.

The United Kingdom has recorded the highest coronavirus-related death total of any European nation with more than 46,000 deaths (as of August 1) and would appear to be one of the more susceptible countries in the event of a potential second wave.

La Liga

2020-21 Start Date: Saturday, September 12
End Date: Sunday, May 23
Defending Champion: Real Madrid

The Spanish soccer metronome swung back in favor of Real Madrid this summer as Zinedine Zidane led his team back to the title, extending their record haul to 34 top-flight crowns.

Barcelona have the less enviable honor of having finished runner-up in La Liga more times than any other club (26). After an 8-2 destruction in the Champions League at the hands of Bayern Munich, Quique Setien was swiftly shown the door. The club have brought in Ronald Koeman in hopes of stabilizing the ship.

This will be the first time in 26 years that La Liga will start without Espanyol competing following their relegation to the second tier, joined by Mallorca and Leganes. Cadiz and Huesca earned automatic promotion to the top flight, while four teams will contest the play-offs in a bid to win the third promotion place: Elche face Zaragoza while Almeria take on Girona in the semi-finals.

Bundesliga

2020-21 Start Date: Friday, September 18
End Date: Saturday, May 22
Defending Champion: Bayern Munich (8th successive title)

A largely exemplary response to the pandemic meant Germany’s top flight was the first of Europe’s major leagues to resume its 2019-20 campaign, concluding business by late June.

Nevertheless, the Bundesliga will be among the last of the “big five” to get their 2020-21 season under way on September 18, according to the DFL’s schedule, which will feature a shorter winter break compared to normal.

Bayern Munich extended their record tally to eight straight title victories this past season following a bump start, seeking a ninth as manager Hansi Flick looks to prove the club right for hiring him permanently.

Serie A

2020-21 Start Date: Friday, September 18
End Date: Sunday, May 23
Defending Champion: Juventus (9th successive title)

No club is enjoying a better run of top-flight title success than Juventus, having just seen off challenges from the likes of Inter Milan, Atalanta and Lazio to win a ninth straight Scudetto.

Maurizio Sarri faces a shortened wait to defend his maiden Serie A crown after it was confirmed the 2020-21 campaign will kick off September 19, one week behind most of Europe’s other major powers, the league confirmed on Monday (via Reuters). The league will, however, finish in line with its peers on May 23.

Benevento will return to Italian football’s top tier for the second time in their history after winning Serie B last term, while runners-up Crotone are also back and mark their third campaign in Serie A. The exciting Serie B play-offs ended with Spezia punching their ticket to the top flight, while SPAL, Brescia and Lecce will make way following their drop down.