El Salvador

El Salvador

  • Capital: San Salvador
  • Population: 6,830,000 (2021 Estimate)
  • Official Languages: Spanish
  • Regional Languages: Nahuatl, Pipil, Lencan, Q’eqchi
  • Men’s Team Nicknames: La Selecta, Los Cuzcatlecos, La Azul y Blanco
  • Women’s Team Nicknames: La Selecta, Selección Cuscatleca, Cuscatlecas, La Azul
  • Association: Federación Salvadoreña de Fútbol / FESFUT
  • Top Male Domestic League: Primera División de Fútbol de El Salvador
  • Top Female Domestic League: LigaFemenina
  • FIFA Code: SLV


  • Best World Cup Result (Men): Group Stage (1970, 1982)
  • Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
  • Best Gold Cup Result (Men): Runners-Up (1963, 1981)
  • Best CONCACAF Women’s Championship: Not Qualified
  • Best Copa Centroamericana (Men): Third Place (6 times)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 49th (April 2012)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 84th (December 2017)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 190th (November 2006)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 113th (April 2021)
  • Most Capped Player: Alfredo Alberto Pacheco – 86 Caps
  • Top Scorer: Raúl Díaz Arce – 39 Goals

Introduction & Brief History

El Salvador, (“The Saviour“) officially The Republic of El Salvador is a country situated in Central America. It is bordered to the northeast by Honduras, to the northwest by Guatemala, and to the south by the Pacific Ocean. El Salvador is the smallest country in the Central American region.

Early history of El Salvador can be traced all the way back to 1,000 years before the Spanish colonization of the Americas which began with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. One thousand years before the arrival of Columbus was when the Mesoamerican nations controlled the region, one of which was called the Lenca who are an indigenous people of southwestern Honduras and eastern El Salvador. Today there is estimated to be approximately 37,000 Lenca in El Salvador. The country declared its independence from Spain on 15th September 1821, from the First Mexican Empire on 1st July 1823 and from the Federal Republic of Central America on 12th June 1824. However, El Salvador did not become an internationally recognised country until 18th February 1841.

With regards to football, the first recorded game to take place in El Salvador was on 16th July 1889 in the city of Santa Ana on a field by the name of ‘Campo Marte’ The game between players from Santa Ana and the country’s capital, San Salvador, included several English players for both teams. Players from England have been credited with introducing the beautiful game to El Salvador. For the record the result of that historic game was a 2-0 win for the home side.

Although El Salvador did take part in a handful of games during the early part of the 20th century, they did not form what was considered to be a full national team until 1921. At this period of time, players such as José Pablo Huezo, Carlos Escobar Leiva, and Santiago Barrachina are said to have revolutionised football in the country. The men’s national team of El Salvador played their first ever international fixture on 14th September 1921. This resulted in a 7-0 defeat by the hands of Costa Rica in a game played in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Meanwhile the first ever game for the women’s national team came on 21st July 1998 and resulted in a 6-1 success for them against Honduras. Ironically, like their male counterparts, this inaugural game was also played in Guatemala. The Salvadoran Football Federation / Federación Salvadoreña de Fútbol was formed in 1935. The governing body of football in the country then became affiliated with FIFA and also UNCAF (Unión Centroamericana de Fútbol) in 1938, and in 1961 they became members of CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football).

The men’s national team finished in the runners-up position in the 1963 CONCACAF Championship (the forerunner to the Gold Cup), a tournament which they hosted at two venues, namely San Salvador and Santa Ana. The 1981 edition of tournament saw them again finishing in the runners-up position. The tournament held in Honduras that year featured six teams (including El Salvador) that competed against each other in a group format. At the end of the proceedings, the hosts finished in top spot and were crowned as champions, just two points ahead of El Salvador.

El Salvador qualified for their first ever World Cup in 1970 when the competition was held in Mexico. La Selecta found themselves placed in a very tough looking group alongside the host nation Mexico, as well as the Soviet Union, and Belgium. Sadly the team lost all three group games and were eliminated from the competition at the first hurdle. Twelve years later, El Salvador qualified for the 1982 World Cup held in Spain. Yet again the team faced a difficult task of proceeding from the group stage as they were placed in Group 3 alongside Belgium, Hungary, and the reigning World Champions, Argentina. Their opening group game proved to be a footballing disaster as they were trounced 10-1 by Hungary! They did however fare much better in their second game, losing only by one goal to nil against Belgium. In their final group game they were far from embarrassed and were only defeated 2-0 by Argentina. The 1970 and 1982 World Cup tournaments are to date the only time El Salvador have qualified in their history. In more recent times, they have reached the final round of qualifying in the CONCACAF region for the 1998 World Cup and achieved the same feat in attempting to qualify for the 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018 and the current 2022 editions of the competition.

For the 2019/2020 CONCACAF Nations League, El Salvador found themselves in League B (Second tier of the competition for the region) Group B alongside Montserrat, Dominican Republic, and Saint Lucia. La Selecta enjoyed a brilliant campaign and finished top of the group meaning promotion to League A for the 2022/2023 edition of the Nations League.

El Salvador National Team

Q. Who is El Salvador’s best player of all-time?

Jorge “Mágico” González

Whilst researching this subject, one player immediately stands out to me as the best Salvadoran player of all-time, his name – Jorge Alberto González Barillas otherwise known as ‘Mágico’.

Mágico played mainly as a forward and is widely regarded to be the greatest and most skilful player ever produced by El Salvador as well as one of the best of all-time from the CONCACAF region as a whole! In a 25-year playing career he became a hero of the Salvadoran club side C.D. FAS during his first of two spells with the club. It was during this time he was given the nickname of El Mágico because of his dazzling performances. His ability had been noted around the world and in 1982 he was transferred to the Spanish club, Cádiz CF and played for the club for two seasons. Whilst with Cádiz he attracted interest from clubs such as PSG in France, and a trio of Italian clubs – Atalanta, Fiorentina, and Sampdoria. Despite this, he stayed with Cádiz prior to playing for fellow Spanish club Real Valladolid for a short time before returning back to Cádiz for a five-year spell. He was to later finish his career back in his homeland with C.D. FAS. As an international El Mágico won 62 caps for El Salvador between 1976 and 1998, scoring a rather healthy 21 goals in the process. He was also a member of the El Salvador squad for the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

In summary, I think the following shows how highly regarded a player this legend of Salvadoran football was. It is a quote from the great Diego Maradona who said he was “without a doubt amongst the greatest ten players I have ever seen play, in all my life”.

Q. Who is currently the best player in the national side?

Darwin Cerén

Looking at the players who were called up to the El Salvador squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification matches for the games against Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico respectively, in my opinion the best current player would have to be 31 year old midfield player Darwin Cerén.

The Quezaltepeque born player currently has the most caps to his name (70 caps at the time of writing) in the El Salavador squad and captained the side during the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup for a total of four games. Cerén started his career with Juventud Independiente in his homeland before going onto play in the MLS for Orlando City from 2014 to 2016. He was named as Orlando’s Players’ Player of the Season in 2015 as well as picking up the Latino Del Año MLS award. After playing for Orlando City, he joined San Jose Earthquakes in 2016, before signing for Houston Dynamo in 2018, which remains to be his club today.

Q. Who could be considered as the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?

Enrico Hernández

Enrico Hernández who plays for SBV Vitesse in the Netherlands, currently on loan at FC Eindhoven, looks to be a good prospect. The 20-year-old forward was actually born in the Netherlands and played for Ajax at youth level between 2016 to 2018. He was eligible to play for the Netherlands, Finland, El Salvador, and Curaçao.

As previously mentioned, Hernández was born in the Netherlands and was born to a Salvadoran father and a Finnish mother, whilst his paternal grandfather was born in Curaçao. Hernández appeared for the Netherlands national team at under 16’s level, but during this year he has played three times for the Salvadoran under 23’s, and four times for the full national team. He came on as a substitute against the USA in September to make his full international debut and since then scored the only goal in a 1-0 win against Panama in October.

Q. What is the current state/performance of the national team?

At the time of writing, El Salvador have played a total of 20 competitive and friendly games in 2021. The team’s record reads as 8 wins, 4 draws, and 8 losses.

La Selecta reached the quarter finals stage of the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup only to be beaten 3-2 by Qatar in front of 64,211 spectators at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, USA.

The team have managed to reach the third round of qualifying in the CONCACAF region for the 2022 World Cup. They face an uphill struggle to progress to the finals in Qatar next year though as they are currently residing in 7th place in a 8 team qualifying group. The top three teams will qualify for Qatar automatically whereas the fourth place finishing team advance to inter confederation play-offs. El Salvador are currently three points off this position with eight games remaining.

All in all I think the phrase to be used for the teams performance during 2021 is ‘up and down’.

Q. Looking at El Salvador’s international history, what has been the best game, result, or performance for the national team?

Without a doubt, qualifying for the 1970 and 1982 World Cups will always go down as major highlights for El Salvador. With regards to a single game, maybe their record 12-0 win over Anguilla in 2008 could go down as a great result.

However, in my opinion a result and performance that betters this occurred in 1954 when they beat Mexico by 3 goals to 2 at the 1954 Central American and Caribbean Games in Mexico. This was the first time in the history of the game that any team from Central America had beaten Mexico. El Salvador also went onto win the 1954 tournament, a great time in the history of football in the country.

Q. What is your favourite shirt from the El Salvador national team?

From looking at the previous shirts worn by the national team, my all time favourite has to be the one that was worn by the national team between 2009 and 2011.

Salvadoran Domestic Football

Q. What is the Salvadoran football pyramid like?

At the time of writing, the Salvadoran football pyramid has five levels:

  • Tier 1 – Primera División de Fútbol de El Salvador
  • Tier 2 – Segunda División de El Salvador
  • Tier 3 – Tercera Division de Fútbol Salvadoreño
  • Tier 4 –  La Asociación Departamental de Fútbol Aficionado
  • Tier 5 – ADFAS Segunda

The Primera División of the Liga de Fútbol Cuscatleco Profesional (Professional Football League), more commonly known as La Liga Mayor or La Primera, is the top professional football league in El Salvador. It was established in 1969, and currently it has 12 teams competing in the top flight. Initially the league was run as a year-long tournament, but since 1998 there are two tournaments each year, much like in many other football leagues in the Americas.

The Apertura season runs from August to December, while the Clausura season runs from February to July.

Q. Which Salvadoran teams are historically the most successful?

The logo of C.D. FAS

Historically, the best club in Salvadoran football is C.D. FAS who currently have 18 league championships to their name and who have also finished as runners up on 22 occasions. The club were founded in 1947 and won their first title in the 1951-52 season having joined the Salvadoran top flight in the 1948-49 season and have never been relegated to the Segunda División de El Salvador.

Closely behind C.D. FAS are C.D. Águila who at the time of writing have 16 title wins to their name, and like FAS, have never been relegated from the top tier of Salvadoran football.

Below is a list of all the clubs who have won the Primera División de Fútbol de El Salvador in the history of league championship in El Salvador.

  • 18 titles: C.D. FAS
  • 16 titles: C.D. Águila
  • 15 titles: Alianza FC
  • 10 titles: C.D. Luis Ángel Firpo and A.D. Isidro Metapán
  • 8 titles: C.D. Atlético Marte
  • 7 titles: Hércules
  • 5 titles: Quequeisque F.C.
  • 4 titles: Santa Tecla F.C.
  • 3 titles: España F.C. and C.D. Dragón
  • 2 titles: C.D. Once Municipal, C.D. Juventud Olímpica, Maya,
  • 1 title: Club Deportivo Santiagueño, San Salvador Fútbol Club, Chacarita Juniors, Libertad FC, C.D. Vista Hermosa, C.D. Platense, España Futbol Club

Q. Who are currently the best teams in El Salvador?

To answer this question I think that it is only fair to look at last season’s championship in the country.

The 2020/2021 Primera División de El Salvador was the 22nd season and 43rd and 44th Primera División tournament since its establishment as a Apertura and Clausura format. For the Apertura stage, this campaign was run slightly different to previous seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first stage of the season saw the twelve competing clubs being placed into three groups of four. Each club played each other in their respective groups twice on a home and away basis. After all of the games were played, all of the clubs were then placed into two groups of six and like the first phase they played each other twice on a home and away basis. Following the completion of the second group phase, the top four clubs from each group qualified for the playoffs. These eight clubs were as follows:

All of the playoff games were played over two legs with the results on aggregate from the last eight of the competition shown as follows:

  • Aguila 3-0 Firpo
  • Alianza 5-2 Once Deportivo
  • Jocoro 2-1 Limeño
  • FAS 3-2 Sonsonate

The triumphant teams from the last eight then qualified for the last four of the Apertura and at the end of that round the two teams that won their respective semi-finals and qualifying for the final were Alianza and Aguila.

The 2020/2021 Apertura final was played at the 53,400 capacity Estadio Cuscatlán in San Salvador, the biggest stadium in the whole of Central America. The final was unfortunately quite a one sided affair with the eventual winners being Alianza who beat Aguila by 3 goals to 0.

Alianza were to have a superb season as they also reached the final of the 2020-21 Clausura. Alas there was to be no double triumph for the San Salvador based club as they were beaten 4-3 on penalties by FAS after the game finished 1-1 after extra time.

The 2021/2022 season in El Salvador is in full swing with the Apertura table currently being led by Alianza who are two points clear of old rivals FAS.

I think from the information that I have gathered that it is quite clear to see that the two historically best clubs in El Salvador are also the best current ones too.

Useful Links

The links for the El Salvador Football Federation official social media channels can be found below:

So that completes the look at the El Salvador national team and its domestic league. If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at the94thmin@gmail.com, or send a message to the author @Gareth19801, or to the editor @The94thMin on Twitter.


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