The league was formed in 1937, and before that, there was no formal national league. There was the Norwegian cup and some regional leagues that had a playoff at the end, with the winner being crowned national champions.
When the league was formed, the top flight teams were divided into eleven groups from eight different districts. The winners of the respective groups played each other in a knockout tournament that was officiated by the Norwegian Football Federation. Fredrikstad were the winners of the inaugural competition.
In 1948, the league underwent significant structural changes, and was renamed the Hovedserien (the main league). There were 16 teams from the different districts in Norway that were placed into two groups of eight. The group winners at the end of the season played each other in a two legged fixture to become Norwegian league champions.
This format continued until 1961, when plans were made to unify the leagues and have a robin-round competition with all 16 districts. Unfortunately, due to the limited daylight and the harsher climate conditions, the teams were unable to finish all their matches in the time allocated to the season, and it ended up lasting 15 months. The season is still referred to this day as the Maratonserien (“The Marathon League”).
In 1963, a new structure was made for the league, with ten teams playing in the 1. Divisjon (First Division). The timing of the season during the year was also shifted, before it was played from autumn until spring, through the dark Norwegian winter days. In 1961 it was played from summer until the following autumn, which proved to be too long and not regular enough. The 1963 season started in the Norwegian spring and ended in autumn, a format which proved successful and has been used ever since.
The ten team league system has been enlarged over the years, with twelve teams playing starting from the 1974 season, fourteen from the 1995 season and finally back to sixteen teams in the 2009 season.
Format of the Norwegian Eliteserien
As of the 2020 season, the sixteen teams playing in the Norwegian Eliteserien have comprised seven Eastern Norway teams, six from Western Norway, one each from Southern Norway, Trondelag and north of the Arctic Circle.
The fixtures are played during and around the weekends, with two games on Saturdays, five on Sundays, and one game on either Mondays or Fridays, making up the total 240 fixtures which are spread over the 8 weeks from Norwegian spring to autumn.
Top Teams in Norway
The top team in Norway, Rosenborg has won the league a record 26 times, but they last won it in 2018. The Trondheim based team have also won the Norwegian cup 12 times, and have played in more UEFA matches than any other Norwegian team.
The biggest modern rivals to Rosenborg, Molde have only won the top division four times, but came in second last season. They have won the Norwegian cup 4 times, and have competed in the Champions League
Commonly known as Viking, this team hails from Stavanger in Norway. They have played in the top flight of Norwegian football since it was established, and have won eight Eliteserien, with four Norwegian cups.
Valerenga finished in third place in last season's Eliteserien. The Oslo based club are five time league champions and four time Norwegian cup champions.
Top Players to Come Through the Eliteserien
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Solskjaer is arguably the most legendary player to come from Norway. He started his professional career in Clausenengen, where he spent five years, scoring an astounding 115 goals in just 109 appearances. He was transferred to Molde, where he scored 31 goals in his one and only season. The baby-faced assassin, as he was known, was spotted by Manchester United scouts, and he was bought by the club in 1996. He spent 11 years at the club, winning some impressive silverware. At Manchester United, Solskjaer won 6 Premier League titles, two FA Cups and one Champions League trophy. For his services to Norwegian football, he was awarded a Knight of the Order of St. Olav, First Class in 2008.
John Arne Riise
The Norwegian defender is probably most famous for his feats playing with English Premier League side Liverpool. He started his career in Aalesund, where he played for two years as a professional footballer before he was purchased by Monaco. After two more years in Monaco, he was bought by Liverpool, where he spent the next seven years of his career. At Liverpool, while he never won a Premier League, he did win a Champions League trophy in 2005. He racked up an impressive 234 caps at the English side, before he was bought by AS Roma, and spent three years there. He was finally bought by Fulham, and returned to the Premier League for three years before he went to play in secondary leagues and finally retire. He has won a French Division 1 league cup, a Champions League cup and FA Cup with Liverpool and was honoured with a Knicksen of the year award in 2006 (the highest footballing honour in Norway).
Martin Odegaard started his footballing career in Stromsgodset. He started training with the first team at the age of 13, and made his professional debut two years later, at the age of 15 years and 118 days old, becoming the youngest debutant in the Norwegian league. His feats with the club caught the attention of Real Madrid scouts, and he was bought by Los Blancos in 2015. He made his debut at Real Madrid at the age of 16 years and 157 days old, becoming the youngest debutant in Real Madrid’s history too.
He was put into the club’s Castilla, or reserve team, and then had trouble breaking into the first team. He was loaned out to Arsenal in 2021, where he had a successful spell, and the club eventually bought him from Real Madrid. Now, he currently plies his trade in the Premier League with Arsenal.
Erling Haaland exploded onto the footballing scene in 2019 with Red Bull Salzburg, when he showed a remarkable skill and hunger for scoring goals in the Champions League. Son of former Leeds football player Alf-Inge Haaland, he was born in Leeds, but the family moved back to his parents’ home town Byrne when he was three. He started his football career at Byrne, and after being promoted to the first squad, he was bought by Molde. He played in the reserves for his first year in Molde, before breaking into the first squad at the age of 17. He scored 14 in his 39 appearances for the club, and Red Bull Salzburg decided to invest in the Norwegian by bringing him to their team.
The 2019 Champions Group stage is when the young striker started breaking all sorts of records. He started his Champions League career with a hat trick against Genk, and followed by scoring a goal against Liverpool in his next game and two against Napoli in his third. He would score another goal in the Napoli reverse fixture, and came off the bench against Genk to score another goal in his fifth Champions League game. By scoring in his first five starts, Haaland joined the likes of Del Pierro, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski to score in five consecutive Champions League games, and he was the only teenager to do so. He transferred to Borussia Dortmund in January of the following year, where he has shown no sign of slowing down. Currently he has scored 49 goals in 49 appearances for the club, and he has made himself one of the most valuable strikers in the world.