Monaco, Swansea, Wrexham: The 11 clubs playing football outside their country

Monaco

What’s the football off-season without a debate about whether or not Celtic and Rangers could hack it in the Premier League?

It’s an age old argument, and one we’ll more than likely never get answers to. That won’t stop us all from bickering about it and sharing our opinions on it, though.

Geography in football is a funny old thing. Be it players switching international allegiance or the constant intercontinental battle to put domestic sides from around a continent against one another, geography and location always creates an interesting talking point.

Many are quick to assume that the likes of Celtic and Rangers would struggle tremendously in the English top flight. The flip side of the coin is their European pedigree, which is better than most other Premier League sides.

Frustratingly, we can’t just drop them into the Premier League for a season and see how they’d do. But what if we could? And why can’t we?

It’s a fact that is often overlooked, but that very thing is happening across the globe. And in England, too.

Teams from one country playing in the league system of another. It’s a fascinating quirk of the game that sits right in front of us, and creates an endless pit of intrigue when you actually take notice of the idea.

So, with that in mind, and to perhaps help in your debates about Rangers and Celtic’s potential Premier League endeavour, here are 11 of the best examples of teams playing in another country’s league.

FC Andorra – Segunda Division

A landlocked microstate bordered by France and Spain, Andorran outfit FC Andorra were acquired by Barcelona defender Gerard Pique in late 2018, but has been playing in Spanish football since 1948.

Plying their trade in Spain’s regional and lower levels of the game, FC Andorra made the Copa Del Rey last 16 back in 1995/96, but have been promoted to the Spanish second tier ahead of the 2022/23 season, for the first time in their history.

Wrexham – National League

The third oldest professional football club in the world, Wrexham are Wales’ oldest side but have played within the English football system for the last two centuries.

So much so, that their main rivalry is with English side Chester, with just ten miles separating the two clubs’ homes. They have won a plethora of Welsh honours, though, including a record 23 Welsh Cups. With new ownership led by Ryan Reynolds, they’ll be hoping to add major English silverware to the collection, too.

Wellington Phoenix – A-League

Formed in 2007, Phoenix entered the Australian top flight immediately despite being a New Zealand team born and bred, in a bid to replace previous New Zealand A-League outfit New Zealand Knights.

‘The Nix’ have been a regular in the A-League ever since their formation and reached the play-offs for the first time in 2022, being knocked out in the semi-final. Interestingly, Phoenix had to temporarily base themselves out of Wollongong, Australia throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to continue competing.

Wellington Phoenix play outside of New Zealand
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MAY 05: Ben Waine of the Phoenix celebrates victory at full-time during the A-League Mens match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Wellington Phoenix at CommBank Stadium, on May 05, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

ASDV San Marino – Eccellenza

Unfortunately, ASDV San Marino’s owners had to merge with Cattolica Calcio in 2019 in order to retain Serie D status, essentially making them half-Sammarinese, half-Italian outfit in Serie D.

But, ASDV San Marino was re-founded in 2021 in the Eccellenza, Italy’s regional fifth tier. The club has been playing within the Italian system since its 1959 formation, representing San Marino as a recognised, professional outfit within Italy.

Newport County – League Two

One of three Welsh outfits currently within England’s professional football pyramid, Newport County ply their trade in League Two.

Despite competing in the Welsh Cup, Newport have long been a part of the English football system, up until their initial bankruptcy and subsequent reformation in 1989. Following that, they fought back up through the English divisions to return to the Football League in 2013.

Newport play in League Two
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 05: Christian Jolley of Newport County celebrates scoring a goal during the Blue Square Bet Premier Conference Play-off Final between Wrexham and Newport County A.F.C at Wembley Stadium on May 5, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

CF Montreal – MLS

With association football still trying to grow throughout the United States and Canada, it’s not much of a surprise to see Canadian franchises buying their way into Major League Soccer, merely for lack of a better, closer to home option.

Football in North America is the MLS, with everything outside of that not really taken seriously. CF Montreal – then the Montreal Impact – became the first Canadian club to reach the CONCACAF Champions League final in 2015. They’ve never won MLS, but do currently hold the Canadian Championship.

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Swansea City – Championship

Founded as Swansea Town in 1912, Swansea were admitted into the Football League in 1920 and have been a regular fixture in English football ever since.

Swansea’s bright spell came in the early 2010s, winning promotion to the Premier League in 2011, winning the League Cup in 2013 and subsequently playing Europa League football in 2013/14. That League Cup was the first major trophy in their history.

Swansea won the League Cup in 2013
LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 24: Captain Ashley Williams of Swansea City and team mates celebrate with the trophy during the Capital One Cup Final match between Bradford City and Swansea City at Wembley Stadium on February 24, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Toronto FC – MLS

Toronto were the first Canadian-based franchise to join the MLS upon their 2007 entry, and have since become one of the most dominant sides in recent times.

Winning a domestic treble in 2017, Toronto clinched the Canadian Cup, the Supporters’ Shield and the MLS Cup, and finished Champions League runners up in the following year. Toronto are a powerhouse in the North American footballing system, paving the way for Canadian sides.

Vancouver Whitecaps – MLS

Entering the MLS after Toronto in 2011 as a phoenix club, the Whitecaps became the first Canadian side to reach the MLS play-offs a year later.

They won their first and only Canadian Championship in 2015 and are yet to win MLS. With the Canadian Premier League playing its first season in 2019 and only growing more popular, it will be fascinating to see what the future holds for Canadian MLS franchises.

The Whitecaps play in the MLS despite being Canadian
VANCOUVER, BC – SEPTEMBER 05: Jakob Nerwinski #28 of the Vancouver Whitecaps celebrates with teammates Andy Rose #15 and Tosaint Ricketts #87 during a game against Toronto FC during MLS soccer action at BC Place on September 5, 2020 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Cardiff City – Championship

Cardiff remain the only team outside of England to have won an FA Cup, which came all the way back in 1927, having joined the English Football League seven years prior, the same as their rivals Swansea.

They almost repeated their FA Cup feat in 2008 but lost in the final against Portsmouth, and have since enjoyed significant time in the Premier League, but have been stuck in the Championship since 2019. Despite the gulf in divisions, Cardiff sit behind Wrexham in Welsh Championships won, having clinched 22.

AS Monaco – Ligue 1

One that will fly over the heads of many, Monaco is its own sovereign city-state and principality, separate to France, but AS Monaco remain one of the most successful sides in French football.

Seven-time Ligue 1 champions, Monaco last won the French top flight in 2016/17 and were Champions League finalists in 2004. Because the principality of Monaco is not a UEFA member and does not have a team competing in major competitions, it is is easy to forget that AS Monaco aren’t actually French, despite playing under the flag, specifically in European competition.

Monaco won Ligue 1 in 2017
MONACO – MARCH 15: Bernardo Silva of AS Monaco (with ball) celebrates victory with team mates Joao Moutinho and Fabinho after the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between AS Monaco and Manchester City FC at Stade Louis II on March 15, 2017 in Monaco, Monaco. Monaco won by 3 goals to 1 and progress to the quarter finals on the away goals rule. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

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