--- - |2+ Objectives We show that decentralization of economic and political power makes a substantial difference in football. Decentralization increases the competitive balance of domestic football leagues and creates an advantage for clubs from decentralized countries in international competitions. Methods We run pooled cross‐sectional time‐series analyses using data from 35 European countries over the period 1950–2010 and logistic regressions with data from the first 18 editions of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League. Results We find that regional autonomy boosts the competition among clubs from different regions and results in a greater competitive balance of domestic football leagues. Clubs from decentralized countries have a greater chance of winning, or at least playing in the final, than those from centralized countries. Conclusions The degree of countries’ political and economic decentralization positively increases the likelihood of winning football international trophies. - 'Social Science Quarterly, EarlyView. '