The Lega Italiana Calcio Professionistico (Italian for Italian Professional Football League), commonly known as Lega Pro is the governing body that runs third highest football division in Italy.
In 2014 the league system in third highest football division in Italy was reformed. Before that, there were two divisions Lega Pro Prima Divisione and Lega Pro Seconda Divisione. In the last season before reform (2013/14) Prima Divisione consisted of two groups: Girone A and Girone B, consisted of 17 and 16 teams. At the end of the seasons, four teams (two from each group) went up to Serie B and six teams (three from each group) went to Lega Pro Seconda Divisione. In the last edition, there was no relegation, just promotion to Serie B or qualification to Lega Pro. Seconda Divisione also consisted of two groups: Girone A and Girone B, both consisted of 18 teams. At the end of the season, six teams (three from each group) went to Lega Pro Prima Divisione and nine teams (four from each group plus the loser play-out from each division) went down to Serie D.
On 21 November 2012, it was announced that the two levels would be merged into a unique league composed of three groups of 20 teams each starting from the 2014–15 season. The merger became effective with the 2014–15 Lega Pro season. So Lega Pro Divisione Unica or Lega Pro is a product from merging Lega Pro Prima Divisione and Lega Pro Seconda Divisione. The new league is composed of 60 teams, divided geographically into three groups of 20 each (Group A, Group B, and Group C).
Four teams from Lega Pro are promoted to Serie B (three group winners plus the winner of promotion playoff involving the three group runners-up) and nine teams are relegated to Serie D (last placed teams from each group go down directly, teams between 16th and 19th plays a relegation playoff, two losing teams per each group being relegated as well).
Number of teams: 60
Level on the pyramid: 3
Domestic cup: Italian Cup (Coppa Italia), Coppa Italia Lega Pro
International Cup: UEFA Europa League (via winning Coppa Italia)
Current champions: Cittadella (Group A), SPAL (Group B), Benevento (Group C)
Transfer window: 3rd January – 31st January and 1st July – 31st August
Number of players: 603
Foreign players: 149
There are not many differences between Group A, B or C in Lega Pro. According to transfermarkt Group C (65 million euros) has lesser market value that Group A (68.33 million euros) and B (69.30 million euros).
Football played in Lega Pro is basic Italian, meaning the stress is on the tactical, defensive game. Being compact in defense is the main target for all clubs in Lega Pro and the players who pose good technical and dribbling abilities are added value.
Lega Pro serves like a good polygon for young talented players. A lot of teams from Serie A and Serie B are loaning their talented footballers to the Lega Pro clubs just for one purpose – to get them as much experience as possible. In order to encourage homegrown players, all Lega Pro clubs are capped to use just 16 players that are older than 23 of age, plus two wildcards for long serving players of the clubs. Any club can use unlimited numbers of under-23 players.
Looking on the list of clubs playing in Lega Pro this season, there is one club that stands out immediately. Its name is Parma, of course. Italian fallen giant who had his golden times in the 1990s when they had a lot of success. Parma was Seria A runner-up in 1996/97 season, won Coppa Italia three times (1991/92, 1998/99 and 2001/02) and won Uefa Cup two times (1994/95 and 1998/99). Players like Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Gianfranco Zola, Lilian Thuram, Juan Sebastian Veron, Hernan Crespo and others all played in the yellow and blue shirt.
But Parma is one of the Italian clubs that went bankrupt. Not once, but twice in last 15 years. It was a rebirth in 2015, starting in Serie D and getting a promotion in the first season. In this season of Lega Pro, there are many teams besides Parma that played in Serie A in recent years. In Group A there are Livorno and Piacenza in Group B Parma and Modena, in Group C Catania, Lecce, Reggina.
A very special club in Lega Pro is Venezia. They have played in Serie A in the past also, but in the last couple of season, they have got off track. So the board had to do something to get on the right track again. They appointed the legendary Italian striker Filippo ‘Pippo’ Inzaghi as manager. It seems like a very good move as Venezia is currently in second place in Group B with 22 points. The current leader is Bassano who has 22 points as well but a better goal difference. Parma is in the 4th place with 21 points and it seems like there will be a dead race until the end.
In Group C there is a similar story as Juve Stabia is a current leader with 25 points and 4th placed Foggia has just two points less. A different story is in Group A where Alessandria started very strong and has 31 points (of 33 possible) after 11 rounds. Second Cremonese is 5 points behind and third Arezzo is 10 points behind.
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