Alongside volleyball and wrestling, football is one of Iran’s most popular sports. Iran’s national team has participated in three World Cups, qualifying for the tournament in 1978, 1998, and 2006. Domestically, the country’s highest level of league competition is the Persian Gulf Pro League which was formed in 1970 and then reformatted in 2001. The league is made up of 16 teams, the bottom 3 of which are relegated to the second division Azadegan League at the end of each season in May. The top 3 sides of the Azadegan League are promoted directly to the top flight, with no play-off system in place.
Persepolis are the current Iranian league champions, they are coached by a former Croatia assistant manager Branko Ivanković. Sepahan, a club based in Esfahan, south of the capital Tehran, have won the most titles (5) since the reformatting of the championship in 2001. The Hazfi Cup is the Iranian knock-out cup competition – the current holders are Zob Ahan.
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