There are many different levels of play in baseball, from Little League to the Major Leagues. But how many leagues are there in total? We break it down for you.
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball is made up of 30 teams that are divided into two Leagues, the American League and the National League. Each league has three divisions, East, West, and Central. There are a total of 162 games played in the regular season. The regular season is played from April to October.
The American League
The American League of Professional Baseball Clubs, or simply the American League (AL), is one of two leagues that make up Major League Baseball (MLB) in the United States and Canada. It developed from the Western League, a minor league based in the Great Lakes states, which eventually aspired to major league status. It is sometimes called the Junior Circuit because it claimed Major League status for the 1901 season, 25 years after the formation of the National League.
At the end of every season, the American League champion plays in the World Series against the National League champion. Through 2018, American League teams have wins in 63 of the 112 Fall Classics played between both leagues. In addition, AL teams have played in 10 additional World Series that were considered exhibitions prior to 1903.
The National League
The National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, commonly known as the National League (NL), is the older of two leagues constituting Major League Baseball (MLB) in the United States and Canada, and the world’s oldest current professional team sports league. Founded on February 2, 1876, to replace the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) of 1871–1875, the NL is sometimes called the Senior Circuit, in contrast to MLB’s other league, the American League, which was founded 25 years later.
The NL originally consisted of ten teams based in two divisions: the Eastern Division and the Western Division. Between 1892 and 1899 four teams from each division were dropped leaving six teams in each division. Consequently, from 1900 to 1952 there were only eight teams in ML baseball. The NL’s geographical footprint straddled both sides of North America; its teams originated in Atlanta (the Braves), Baltimore (the Orioles), Boston (the Braves), Chicago (the Cubs), Cincinnati (the Reds), Detroit (the Tigers), Montreal (the Expos), New York City (the Giants), Pittsburgh (the Pirates), Philadelphia (the Phillies), St. Louis (the Cardinals) and San Francisco (the Giants). The Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins joined the NL respectively in 1993 and 1998 expanding baseball to 30 teams overall.
Minor League Baseball
The Triple-A Leagues
There are three Triple-A leagues in professional baseball, these are the International League (IL), the Pacific Coast League (PCL), and the Mexican League (ML). The Triple-A level is one step below Major League Baseball.
The IL, PCL, and ML all play a 144-game schedule. The regular season starts in April and ends in September. Each league is divided into two divisions (East and West, or North and South). The divisional winners advance to the Triple-A Championship Game.
The Triple-A level has existed since 1907. The IL was founded that year and was originally known as the International Association (IA). The PCL was also founded in 1907, while the ML started play in 1925.
The Double-A Leagues
In baseball, the Double-A Leagues are considered the third step in the minor leagues, between Single-A and Triple-A. The two existing Double-A leagues are the Eastern League and the Southern League. There are also several defunct Double-A leagues, including the original American Association (which eventually became today’s Triple-A International League), the Western League, and the Central League.
Players in the Double-A Leagues are generally considered to be among the best of the minor leaguers, although some players may be “stuck” in Double-A for a prolonged period of time if they are not quite good enough for Triple-A or if there is no room for them on a major league roster.
The Single-A Leagues
There are three Single-A leagues in Minor League Baseball: the Northwest League, the South Atlantic League, and the Florida State League. Each league is made up of 10 teams.
The Northwest League is made up of teams from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. The South Atlantic League is made up of teams from North and South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Tennessee. The Florida State League is made up of teams from Florida.
Independent baseball leagues are professional baseball leagues in the United States and Canada that are not affiliated with Major League Baseball. There are currently six American independent baseball leagues and three Canadian independent baseball leagues. These leagues are not affiliated with each other and are not governed by the same rules or organizations as Major League Baseball.
The Atlantic League
The Atlantic League began play in 1998 and is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. The league is made up of eight teams, all located in the eastern United States. The league plays a 140-game schedule, which runs from late April/early May to early September.
The league’s champion is determined by a best-of-five playoff series, which is held after the regular season ends. The four teams with the best record in the league qualifies for the playoffs.
The Frontier League
The Frontier League is an independent baseball league founded in 1993. It operates mostly in the Midwestern United States, although a couple of its teams are located in the Southern United States. The league is not affiliated with Major League Baseball.
The Frontier League began with six teams in 1993, all based in Illinois. The league has expanded and contracted numerous times since then, but as of the 2020 season, it consists of 16 teams. Three of these teams are located in Ohio, two each are located in Indiana and Pennsylvania, and one each is located in Kentucky, Missouri, New York, and West Virginia.
The Frontier League is currently the largest independent baseball league in terms of number of teams. However, it is not the only independent baseball league; other notable independent leagues include the Atlantic League, the Can-Am League, and the American Association.
The Can-Am League
The Can-Am League is an independent baseball league with six teams located in the Northeastern United States and Canada. The league was founded in 2005 as a successor to the Northeast League, and currently operates in cities that do not have Major League or Minor League baseball teams.
The Can-Am League plays a 96-game regular season schedule, which begins in late May and ends in early September. All games are nine innings in length, and are played between two teams of nine players each.
The league’s champion is determined by a playoff series between the two divisional winners of the Can-Am League’s regular season. The Can-Am League Champion then goes on to play in the Independent Baseball Championship Series (IBCS), which pits the champions of the various independent baseball leagues against each other.