There are a total of 16 clubs that play in the Russian Premier League, which is Russia's first division football league. This current of the league was established in 2001 under the Russian Football Union. The league ranks in the middle-upper echelon within UEFA, and therefore, at the end of the season the RPL is granted 3 UEFA Champions League spots (just 1 fewer than the top tier leagues) as well as 2 in the UEFA Europa League.
While the Russian Premier League dates back to 2001, the modern era of Russian football began in 1992 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In the early seasons, Spartak Moscow was by far the dominant club, winning 9 of the first 10 titles between 1992 and 2001. This streak was only interrupted by Spartak-Alania Vladikavkaz when they stole the title away from the champions in 1995. (Note: Spartak-Alania Vladikavkaz last played in the third division, went bankrupt and dissolved in 2017.)
Parity Under The League's New Format
Since 2001, the league has seen a bit more parity with four other teams coming in to claim multiple championships during this time. In fact, since their win in 2001, Spartak Moscow has one just once, in 2017. The most dominant team in the current era is PFC CSKA Moscow who have been crowned 6 times. Other notable forces in the league include Lokomotiv Moscow, who have won the title 3 times, and FC Rubin Kazan who have won twice. The new sheriff in town so to speak however, has to be FC Zenit St. Petersburg who first reached the plateau in 2007, and have racked up 5 titles since. They are also the current champions of the league for the 2018-2019 season.
About Russian Premier League Play
Teams in the Russian Premier League play each other twice during each season, once at home and once away, for a total of 30 matches. Three points are awarded for a win, one for a draw, and none for a loss. If teams are level on points, the tie-breakers are the number of wins, then the goal difference, followed by several other factors. If the teams are tied for the first position, the tie-breakers are the number of wins, then head-to-head results. If the teams tied for the first place cannot be separated by these tie-breakers, a championship play-off is ordered.
Russian Premier League Interesting Facts
Although it may be surprising to many, per UEFA world ranking, the Russian premier league ranks 6th in the world.
Sergei Nikolayevich Ignashevich has made the most appearances in the league with 504. He retired in after the 2018 season with with CSKA Moscow, for whom he made 380 appearances for, scoring 35 goals.
The all-time leading goal scorer is Oleg Veretennikov with 143 goals in 274 appearances. He played a majority of his career with now second division FC Rotor Volgograd for whom he scored 141 times in just 247 appearances.
Final League Grade
Although this is a league that you probably have not watched very much of, or may not have ever even heard of it is one of the strongest leagues in all of Europe. However, it will probably never quite be able to challenge with the likes of the very top leagues like England and Spain due to the fact that there are some very specific rules about how many foreign born players can be on each team. While this prevents them from probably ever being able to break into the top 4 in the UEFA League rankings, it plays great dividends for them in terms of strengthening the national team. This was of course evidenced by their unexpected deep run in the 2018 World Cup. Overall, this team has a little bit of everything you look for as a fan. This includes a consistent high level of play, competitive matches, and is not one of those leagues where you already know who is going to win before the season starts.
Overall I give it a B Minus.