Eliteserien is Norwegian football’s first division but is one of the lesser known leagues, so we decided to outline the format and history of the league, looking at the European history of the teams and notable players to ply their trade in Norway.
The top flight in Norway, Eliteserien has been a 16-team league since 2009 and sees the sides meet home and away for a total of 30 matches in a season running from March until November.
Matches are often split into two games on Saturdays, five games on Sundays and one game on either Fridays or Mondays with all matches shown on Eurosport and four matches a week aired on TVNorge.
At the end of the season the lowest two-placed teams are relegated to the OBOS-ligaen.
Since the 1961/62 season the league has consisted of one league and a more manageable 16 teams, a far cry from the early Eliteserien campaigns which saw 74 teams split into 11 groups where the groups winners would qualify for the play-offs.
Before 1971/72, northern teams – including current sides Bodo/Glimt and Tromso -were not allowed to compete in the top flight allegedly due to travel distances, although they did compete in a separate Norwegian Cup.
Rosenborg are by far Norway’s most successful side, winning their first of a record 26 titles in 1967 and claiming 13 straight championships from 1992. In 2010 they became the only team to complete an unbeaten campaign.
Their nearest challengers are second division side Fredrikstad with nine titles although they have not claimed the title since 1960/61, finishing runners-up on five occasions since, most recently in 2008.
Last season Bodo/Glimt stormed to the title, becoming the first North Norwegian side to achieve the feat, with a record 81 points.
Player and manager Records
The central midfielder Daniel Berg Hestad has made the most Eliteserien appearances with 473 between 1993 and 2016 in a career spent solely at Molde where he won three league titles.
Sigurd Rushfeldt is the league’s all-time top goalscorer, netting 172 goals in 299 matches in a career from 1992 to 2011 where he had a spell at Rosenborg in between two spells at Tromso.
The most successful coach in Eliteserien history is Nils Arne Eggen who has claimed 15 titles with Rosenborg and Moss, the first coming in 1971 and the last in 2010 and included a record five consecutive titles from 1991.
Currently only the league winners qualify for the Champions League qualifiers while the second and third placed teams compete in the Europa League qualifiers.
Bodo/Glimt were eliminated by AC Milan in the third qualifying round of the Europa league while second-placed Molde reached the round of 16 in 2020/21, losing to Spanish side Granada.
Fourth-placed Rosenborg were knocked out in the Europa League play-off round by PSV Eindhoven.
The only two sides to compete in the Champions League group stage are Rosenborg (11 times) and Molde (once), with Rosenborg’s run to the 1996/97 quarter-finals the furthest a Norwegian side has reached.
Players to come from the Eliteserien and make a mark in Europe include Ole Gunnar Solskjær who played for Clausenengen and Molde before moving to Manchester United where he made over 300 appearances and scored in the 1999 Champions League against Bayern Munich as United won the treble.
Henning Berg featured for Vålerenga and Lillestrøm before moving to Blackburn Rovers in 1993 where he claimed the Premier League title the following season. A move to Manchester United in 1997 saw him earn another Premier League winners medal, becoming the first player to win the league with two different clubs.
Current players plying their trade overseas include Erling Haaland who began his career at hometown club Bryne before spending two years at Molde and a season at RB Salzburg. His form in Austria sealed a move to Borussia Dortmund and despite only being 20 years old, he recently scored his 100th senior goal and reached 20 Champions League goals in just 14 matches, the quickest rate ever.
Jens Petter Hauge spent his Norwegian top-flight career at Bodo/Glimt, where he started in 2016, helping them claim their first ever title last year. After starring in a Europa League match against AC Milan, the Italian giants signed the 21-year-old on a five-year deal.
Runaway champions last year with a record 81 points, Bodo/Glimt lost winger Phillip Zickernagel to Championship side Watford in January depriving them of 40 goal contributions but have exciting youngsters Ask Tjærandsen-Skau and Adan Abadala Hussein returning from loan spells at second division Stjørdals/Blink. However they managed to hold on to Zickernagel’s partner-in-crime Kasper Junker who netted 27 goals.
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