Latvian Higher League or Virslīga, known for sponsorship reasons as Optibet Virslīga since 2019, is a professional football league and the top tier of association football in Latvia. Organised by the Latvian Football Federation, the Higher League is contested by 10 clubs.
|Number of teams||10|
|Level on pyramid||1|
|Relegation to||1. līga|
|Domestic cup(s)||Latvian Cup|
|International cup(s)||UEFA Champions League|
UEFA Europa Conference League
|Current champions||Valmiera (1st title) |
|Most championships||Skonto (15)|
|Current: 2023 Latvian Higher League|
History and league formatEdit
The first all-national Latvian championship, which succeeded the Riga Football League and other regional leagues, was organized in 1927, which lasted until the Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940. After World War II, between 1945 and 1991 the championship of Soviet Latvia was the main footballing competition in the Latvian SSR.
With Latvia regaining full independence in August 1991, the newly established Latvian Football Federation (LFF) decided to reorganise its competitions within the Virslīga from 1992. The same year Latvia returned to FIFA and became a member of UEFA.
After the 2007 season the league increased from eight to ten sides. In 2008 each side played the others four times. From 2015 till 2018 there were eight participating clubs. This was increased to nine for the 2019 season and ten for the 2020 season.
At the end of the season, the lowest placed team are automatically relegated into 1. līga, and the winner of the 1. līga automatically takes their place. The second lowest placed team in Virslīga and the second team of 1. līga play two matches for a place in the Virslīga the following season. The winner of Virslīga, the champion of Latvia, plays in the UEFA Champions League qualifying round. The second and third placed clubs play in the UEFA Europa League qualifying games.
There again will be 10 teams in 2022 season. Last year participants RFS, Valmiera FC, FK Liepāja, Riga FC, FK Spartaks Jūrmala, BFC Daugavpils and FK Metta will be joined by newcomers FK Auda, FK Tukums 2000/Telms and SK Super Nova.
Sponsorships and name changesEdit
The League has changed sponsors for several times. From 2005 until 2010 it was known as the LMT Virslīga. No sponsorships were established for the 2011 season. Starting from the 2012 season, the league was reorganised in partnership with an NGO as "Latvijas Futbola virslīga", adopting the NGO's name in the 2012 season. From 2013 to 2015, the league was known as the SMScredit.lv Virslīga due to a contract with the online microfinance company SMScredit. In March 2016, it was announced that the Virslīga would be sponsored by SynotTip Sports Bar on a three-year contract. They were succeeded by betting firm Optibet on a two-year contract, beginning with the 2019 season.
|FK Auda||1st in First League (2021)|
|Tukums 2000||2nd in First League (2021)|
|SK Super Nova||3rd in First League (2021)|
Titles by yearEdit
Riga Football LeagueEdit
Latvian Championship 1922–1940 (independent)Edit
Football Championship of Latvian SSR 1942–1990Edit
Since independence in 1991Edit
Notable managers and playersEdit
This is a list of clubs, in order of most titles won in championships in independent Latvia (1922–1940 and 1991 to date). Teams in bold are part of 2020 Virslīga.
|Club||No. of Titles||Years won|
|Skonto Riga||15||1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2010|
|RFK Riga||8||1924, 1925, 1926, 1930, 1931, 1934, 1935, 1940|
|Olimpija Liepāja||7||1927, 1928, 1929, 1933, 1936, 1938, 1939|
|Ventspils||6||2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2013, 2014|
|Riga FC||3||2018, 2019, 2020|
|Liepājas Metalurgs||2||2005, 2009|
|Kaiserwald Riga||2||1922, 1923|
|JPFS/Spartaks Jūrmala||2||2016, 2017|
The most well-known rivalry is the Kurzeme Derby (Kurzemes derbijs) between Ventspils and Liepāja.[circular reference] The two biggest clubs in Kurzeme have played 86 matches between themselves with a record of 31–28–27 (including Metalurgs) in favor of Liepāja prior to the 2019 Virslīga.
Since 2016, the Riga Derby (Rīgas derbijs) was started between Riga FC and Rīgas FS as two clubs were promoted at the same time. A 2019 match in Skonto Stadium between the two sides broke a ten-year attendance record.
Virslīga clubs in international competitionsEdit
Skonto reached the UEFA Champions League last qualifying stage for a number of times in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but lost to such teams like FC Barcelona in 1997, Internazionale FC in 1998 and Chelsea FC in 1999.
- "Latvia". UEFA. All rights reserved. 3 September 2018.
- Mike Dryomin (14 March 2008). "Latvia 2007". RSSSF. Retrieved 23 July 2012.
- "Sacensību sistēmas modeļa apstiprināšana". lff.lv (in Latvian).
- Hartmanis, Martins (1 December 2007). "LMT Virslīga new season calendar published". Latvian Football Federation. Retrieved 20 February 2008.
- "Ziemas kauss futbolā vairs nenotiks, to aizstās Virslīgas kausa izcīņa". LA.lv (in Latvian). 22 December 2017. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
- "LFF piešķir virslīgas licences 10 klubiem".
- "About Virslīga". Biedrība Latvijas Futbola Virslīga. Futbolavirsliga.lv. Archived from the original on 3 June 2013. Retrieved 16 June 2013. (in Latvian)
- "Latvijas futbola virslīgai nākamajā sezonā būs jauns ģenerālsponsors". Public Broadcasting of Latvia (in Latvian). 17 October 2018. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
- "Virslīga ar "SynotTip" noslēdz vērienīgāko līgumu līgas vēsturē" (in Latvian). Sportacentrs.com. 10 March 2016. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
- "Becomes main sponsor of Latvian football league". Enlabs AB. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
- Almantas Lauzadis and Hans Schöggl (23 March 2017). "Latvia – List of Champions". RSSSF. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
- Kurzeme derby
- "Futbola virslīgā tiks aizvadīts Kurzemes derbijs". TVNET (in Latvian). 20 June 2019.
- Suveizda, Agris (2 June 2019). "Rīgas derbijs labo Virslīgas desmitgades apmeklētības rekordu". SportaCentrs.com (in Latvian).
- Europa League group stage