If you enjoyed the video, why not subscribe to FM Llama's channel.
The Belgian League Structure
The league in Belgium has undergone numerous makeovers over recent years. The top division currently comprises 18 clubs, with teams playing each other home and away over 34 games before the league split. The top four teams after 34 games go into a group to play off for the title and the teams placed fifth to eighth go into a group to compete for European qualification. At the foot of the table, the bottom team is relegated and the team second from bottom enters a playoff with one of the teams from the division below.
The second tier is only made up of eight clubs, who play each other four times to create a 28-game season. The top team is automatically promoted and the second placed club secure the playoff position. Belgium also offers fans of Football Manager a playable third division too.
So that's how the league works, but which club in Belgium is going to provide the scene for your next Football Manager adventure?
Anderlecht – Belgium’s most successful club
The most decorated team in Belgian football hail from the capital Brussels. Anderlecht may not have had things all their own way over the last couple of seasons, finishing eighth last campaign under Vincent Kompany and failing to challenge for the title this season, but when it comes to honours both domestic and continental, no club from Belgium can match the success that Anderlecht have enjoyed. The club have won the Belgian Cup nine times, but perhaps more impressively, they have secured the league title on thirty-four occasions. They have also tasted European success in their history, winning the 1983 UEFA cup, beating Benfica in the final, although that title is controversial given the allegation they bribed the referee against Nottingham Forest in the semi-final, allegedly leading to the award of a penalty in extra time.
Anderlecht have also won the European Cup Winners Cup twice, both times in the 1970’s. The first Cup Winners Cup was secured after they beat West Ham United and on the second occasion they beat Austria Vienna. Anderlecht also appeared in the 1990 Cup Winners Cup final, losing to Sampdoria of Italy. In addition to their impressive list of honours, Anderlecht also possess impressive facilities in FM21, with ‘superb’ training facilities, ‘excellent’ youth facilities, ‘excellent’ junior coaching and ‘exceptional’ youth recruitment. It's easy to see why the club have produced the likes of Vincent Kompany and Romelu Lukaku, and going further back, national greats like Enzo Scifo. But Anderlecht have some major rivalries in Belgian Football, with clubs who themselves have a very successful past.
Club Bruges – A club in form
Anderlecht’s fierce rivals Club Bruges are the team running away with this season’s title. The Flemish club were founded in 1891, giving them matricule number three. In Belgian football, matricules are awarded to football clubs in order of when they were registered with the Football Association, meaning Club Bruges are one of the nation’s oldest clubs.
Unlike their rivals from Brussels, The Blauw-Zwart are yet to win a major European trophy. However, they are the only team from Belgium that have appeared in the final of UEFA’s leading continental competition, the European Cup, losing the final in 1978 to Liverpool.
Club Brugge also appeared in the 1976 UEFA Cup final as well, unfortunately losing to the same opponent. To compensate, they do have 11 Belgian Cup final victories, two more than Anderlecht. They have also won Belgium’s league title sixteen times and are reigning champions having won the title last campaign and are top of the table this season. In terms of facilities in Football Manager, they possess ‘state-of-the-art’ training facilities and ‘state-of-the-art’ youth facilities. Combined with ‘good’ junior coaching and ‘excellent’ youth recruitment you can see that this is a club well placed to help you compete for honours in your next FM adventure. But are you the coach to finally lead Club Brugge to European success?
Racing Club Genk – The talent factory
A younger club trying to establish themselves as a third force in Belgian football are Racing Club Genk. Football Manager lists them as founded in 1923, but the club we know today was not actually formed until 1988, when two rival teams from the northeast coal mining area of Limburg, FC Winterslag and Waterschei Thor, merged together. The newly formed club was named RC Genk and took on Winterslag’s matricule.
Over recent seasons, this club has started to put together an enviable collection of trophy wins, having lifted the Belgian Cup four times since the merger in 1988. Waterschei Thor also won two Belgian Cups before the merger took place. Since 1988, RC Genk have also managed to claim the Belgian League title on four occasions and are regular participants in European competition, making it to the Champions League group stages on three occasions.
RC Genk are also a club renowned for producing exceptional youth players, with the likes of Yannick Carrasco, Dennis Praet, Christian Benteke, Thibaut Courtois, Divock Origi, Steven Defour, Timothy Castagne, Leandro Trossard and Machester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne all representing Genk at youth level. This is reflected in the facilities they have in FM21 and if you enjoy youth development challenges in Football Manager, RC Genk is certainly a destination that might interest you.
The chasing pack - Standard Liège & KAA Gent
Another club with a rich history is Standard Liège, the leading club from the French-speaking Walloon region in the south of Belgium. Standard were founded in 1898 and hold the record for the most consecutive seasons spent in the top division, having been an ever present in the topflight since 1921. Standard is a club that has experienced much success, having won eight Belgian Cup finals and ten Belgian league titles, the fourth highest in Belgian football. Standard are also a club that came close to winning European silverware. In 1982, they reached the final of the European Cup Winners Cup before losing out to Barcelona. Standard are a well-supported club, but one that has not competed for trophies as regularly as their fans would have liked over recent seasons. Maybe you are the manager that will return them to their glorious best.
Founded in 1900, another club with a good support base in the Flemish region of the country are Gent. The Buffalos, as they are nicknamed, might not have as many honours as some of their Flemish rivals but they have won the Belgian cup three times, but perhaps their greatest triumph came in the 2014-15 season, when they clinched their only league title. The following campaign saw Gent qualify from their Champions League group before losing to Wolfsburg in the knockout rounds and the club also made it to the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup in the 1991-92 season. Taking charge of Gent would certainly be a longer-term project for the aspiring Football Manager, but one that might provide the challenge you are seeking.
Royal Antwerp – Matricule Number 1
If you enjoy taking charge of the oldest club a nation has to offer, Royal Antwerp are the team for you. Founded in 1880, they were relegated out of the top flight in 2004 and didn't make it back to that level until 2017 but last season they ended a 30-year wait for a trophy by winning their third Belgian Cup. The club from Belgium’s second largest city have also won four league titles, but the wait for another one has been a long one. In this season’s league table, they have proved to be Club Brugge’s closest challenges and seem to be a club in resurgence. If you like the idea of trying to restore the oldest club in the country back to the top of the game, Royal Antwerp might be the ideal club for you.
Sleeping Giants – KV Mechelen, Union Saint-Gilloise & RFC Liege
If the idea of restoring a fallen great to the top of the domestic game is the kind of Football Manager adventure you enjoy, KV Mechelen might be the perfect project. The club has enjoyed success on the pitch and controversy off it over recent decades.
KV Mechelen were relegated from Belgium’s topflight in 2018 but were promoted back at the first attempt, winning the cup during the 2018-19 season as well. However, an investigation by the Belgian authorities found that KV Mechelen had attempted to bribe their opponents on the final day of the 2017-18 in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid relegation. The authorities punished the club by annulling their promotion, leaving Mechelen back in the second tier even thought they’d won a promotion and Belgian Cup double. The club took the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who overturned the decision of the Belgian FA, allowing KV Mechelen to take up their sport back in the top division.
The club’s turbulent past stretches further back than their recent troubles too. They've suffered bankruptcies that led to them being demoted down the leagues but they have experienced happier times. The 2019 cup final victory was KV Mechelen’s second Belgian Cup triumph and they have also won four league titles. But perhaps most notably, they are the only Belgian club other than Anderlecht to have won European trophies. They lifted the Cup Winners Cup in 1988, beating Aiax in the final and in the following season’s European Super Cup they defeated another Dutch side, PSV. The courts may have decreed that KV Mechelen are back in the top division of Belgian football, but are you the coach that will take this former giant back to the top of European competition?
Belgium also offers Football manager players the chance to take charge of fallen giants in the lower divisions too. Union Saint-Gilloise are currently celebrating promotion back to the topflight in real life, but in FM21 they start in the second tier. Union SG are from a suburb of Brussels and are owned by Tony Bloom, the gambling tycoon who also own English side Brighton & Hove Albion. Union SG are one of the oldest clubs in Belgium and in the early part of the previous century were hugely successful, winning 11 league titles between 1904 and 1935. They have also won two Belgian Cups, but need an FM21 manager that can replicate the return to Belgian’s top division that they have achieved in real life.
However, if you are seeking a sleeping giant in the lowest playable third tier in Belgium then RFC Liège might appeal to you. This is a club with a successful history, as well as the club that Jean-Marc Bosman played for at the time of the establishment of the Bosman ruling.
Founded in 1892, RFC Liège were competing in European competition as recently as the 1980s and won the Belgian Cup in 1990, but they have suffered a long period of financial hardship where they were without a ground for two decades and suffered demotions down the leagues. RFC Liège won the last of their five league titles in 1953 and a club that used to sit at the summit of Belgian football now languishes in the lowest playable division in FM21. Perhaps you might be the coach to lead them back to the big time.
So that’s the League Lowdown on Belgium – a country boasting clubs that have won European competitions, some of Europe’s fiercest rivalries and sleeping giants that have fallen on difficult times. If none of the clubs covered in this guide are quite right for you, perhaps we might at least have inspired you to load up the Belgian leagues and seek out your own next great Football Manager adventure.