In the same league – or not

Surfing in a different league. pic: © Marc Prefontaine |

Another sports expression that can be used in a literal and a figurative sense: being/playing in the same league as someone.

In the literal sense it is pretty obvious: there are different leagues for teams playing at different levels.  In German soccer there is the Bundesliga for the best teams, and the 2. Bundesliga for the ones just below that level, etc. all the way down to the local level.  If teams which are in different leagues play each other, often the outcome is predictable, the team in the higher league wins and the losers will say “our soccer team is not in the same league as the opposition team.”

Figuratively it means having qualities or achievements similar to someone or something else, being on a similar level or of similar quality.  However, the expression is most frequently used in the negative form “not in the same league with somebody/something” meaning that the two things are very different with one being substantially better than the other.


“Wow, you got the latest iPhone.  My old mobile phone is not even in the same league.”


“Do you think I should take surf classes with James or Paul?”

“Paul, definitely.  James is a pretty good surfer – but he is not even in the same league as Paul.”

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