Played between May to September due to the particularly inclement Icelandic weather in the winter, the league consists of twelve teams who play each other home and away.
At the end of the campaign, the first-placed team is crowned champions and the bottom two sides are relegated to the First Division.
The most successful team in Besta-deild karla history is KR Reykjavík who have won 27 titles including in the inaugural season of 1912 but they did go 31 years from 1968 without being champions. In a remarkable show of consistency, they have also finished as runners-up on 24 occasions.
ÍA are the third-most successful club with 18 titles, behind Valur (23), but are notable for being only one of four sides outside the capital Greater Reykjavík area to have claimed the Úrvalsdeild alongside Keflavík, ÍBV, and KA.
Stjarnan are the last team to have become champions for the first time with their impressive 2014 campaign where they remained unbeaten with a record-equalling 52 points. They were also well-known for a period abroad due to their viral choreographed celebrations including landing a fish, diving, a human toilet, a human bicycle, and a Rambo shooting spree.
A spot in the Champions League second qualifying round is the reward for the Úrvalsdeild winners while the second, third and fourth-placed sides enter the Europa League first qualifying round.
One of the most notable runs of an Icelandic team in Europe was Stjarnan who claimed a 5-4 aggregate victory in extra-time over Motherwell before a Rolf Toft goal saw them edge past Lech Poznan to reach the Europa League play-offs.
Here they met Italian giants Inter Milan and unsurprisingly their run was comprehensively ended, losing 6-0 at San Siro with Mateo Kovacic netting a hat-trick following a 3-0 defeat at home.
Player and manager records
Tryggvi Guðmundsson is the all-time top-scorer in Iceland’s top division, netting 131 goals for ÍBV, KR, FH, Fylkir with his best scoring season coming in 1997 with 19 goals in 18 games as he led ÍBV to the title. Coincidentally, his second-best campaign also came with a title win as his 16 strikes in 2005 helped FH become champions.
In 2007, Andri Rúnar Bjarnason became only the third player to score 19 goals in a single season (after Guðmundur Torfason for Fram in 1986) for Grindavík who finished fifth and only scored 31 times as a team.
Only twice has a non-Scandinavian player won the league’s Player of the Year award and they both hail from Scotland with David Winnie claiming the award in 1998 as he helped KR to a second-placed finish. More recently in 2020, Steven Lennon matched his compariot when he won the award for FH who also finished runners-up.
Eidur Gudjohnsen started his career in Iceland for Valur but only played a handful of games before being snapped up by PSV in 1994.
From here, he embarked on an impressive European career, winning two Premier League titles with Chelsea and La Liga and Champions League with Barcelona.
He also has an obvious status within the national team as their joint top scorer with 26 goals and made headlines as he made his debut by replacing his father in 1996.
A Premier League stalwart, Herman Hreidarsson spent 15 seasons in England’s top-flight clocking up a century of appearances each for Portsmouth, Ipswich and Charlton.
Before England came calling, the defender made his mark in his homeland over four seasons with ÍBV, helping turn around the club’s fortunes and finished third and fourth in his two campaigns.
Mainly known for his time at Watford, where he spent the majority of his career and finished as the club’s top-scorer on three occasions, Heidar Helguson made an impressive start to life in Iceland’s top-flight.
His 31 goals for Prottur over three seasons helped him secure a move to Lillestrom and eventually to England where he also featured for the likes of Cardiff and QPR in the Premier League.
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