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Soccer, which is also known as football, is the world's most popular sport. More than 250 million people play soccer in more than 200 countries around the globe. In professional leagues and national teams, soccer is played by 11 players on each team, including a goalie, who try to move a ball up the field, or pitch, and score it in the goal.
Since soccer is a global game, there are numerous professional leagues. In the United States, Major League Soccer (MLS) is the highest level of professional soccer. The first season of MLS was in 1996, and the league now has 24 teams. The Los Angeles Galaxy has won five MLS Cup championships, more than any other team in the league.
In Europe, the top leagues include the English Premier League (EPL) in England, La Liga in Spain, Serie A in Italy, the Bundesliga in Germany, and Ligue 1 in France. Each of these soccer leagues crowns its own champion each year.
Manchester United has won the most Premier League championships, with 13. Real Madrid's 33 titles are the most in La Liga. In Italy's Serie A, Juventus has won the most championships, with 35, while Bayern Munich's 28 titles lead Germany's Bundesliga. Saint-Etienne has won 10 league championships, the most titles in France's Ligue 1.
The best teams from the highest-division European soccer leagues also compete in the UEFA Champions League. This annual soccer tournament started in 1955, when it was known as the European Champion Clubs' Cup, and became known as the UEFA Champions League in 1992. Thirty-two soccer clubs are divided into eight groups and play in the Champions League group stage. The winner and runner-up from each group move on to the knockout stage. Real Madrid, of Spain's La Liga, has won the most Champions League titles (13).
In addition to club soccer, there are also soccer tournaments contested among national teams. The most prominent of these is the FIFA World Cup. The World Cup began in 1930, and the tournament is played every four years. (The World Cup was not held in 1942 and 1946 because of World War II.) Brazil has won the most World Cup championships, with five. Countries must qualify to play in the World Cup, with the exception of the host nation, which receives an automatic entry. There are 32 teams that compete in the group stage, and the top teams advance to the knockout round.
The UEFA European Championship is another prominent tournament that is played by the top national teams that are members of the Union of European Football Associations. The UEFA Euro competition is also held every four years, in the even-numbered year between World Cups. Germany and Spain have each won three Euro titles, which is tied for the most ever.