stems back to the late 19th century, when Englishmen brought the game with them while living in Salonica (then part of the Turkish Empire). The first league competition was the , which took place in the 1904–05 season. The league went through several variations until the creation of the Millî Lig (Süper Lig) in 1959. Between the creation of the Istanbul League and Millî Lig, several other regional leagues took place: Adana (1923), (1923), (1920), (1923), Kayseri (1936), and Trabzon (1923), to name a few. The first competition to bring forth a national champion was the former , which began in and continued until . The championship format was based on a knockout competition, contested between the winners of each of the country's top regional leagues. The National Division (Turkish: Millî Küme) was the first national league competition in Turkey. Started in 1937, the Millî Küme consisted of the strongest clubs from the Ankara, Istanbul, and İzmir Leagues. The championship lasted until 1950.
The Federation Cup was created in 1956 to decide a national champion. This champion would go on to participate in the European Cup. The competition was held for two years until it was replaced by the Millî Lig. Beşiktaş won both editions, and qualified for the European Cup during the two-year span. However, since the TFF failed to register their name for the draw in time, Beşiktaş could not participate in the 1957–58 season after all.
The top clubs from Ankara, Istanbul, and İzmir competed in the 1959 Millî Lig. The first season took place in the calendar year of 1959, instead of 1958-59, because the qualifying stages took place in 1958. The 16 clubs who competed in the first season were: Adalet (İstanbul), Altay (İzmir), Ankaragücü, Ankara Demirspor, Beşiktaş (İstanbul), Beykoz (İstanbul), Fatih Karagümrük (İstanbul), (İstanbul), (İstanbul), Gençlerbirliği (Ankara), Göztepe (İzmir), Hacettepe Gençlik (Ankara), İstanbulspor, İzmirspor, Karşıyaka (İzmir Province), and Vefa (Istanbul). Only five of those clubs are currently competing in the Super League: Ankaragücü, Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray, and Göztepe. The first champions were Fenerbahçe and the first "Gol Kralı" (top scorer) was Metin Oktay. No clubs were promoted or relegated at the end of the first season.
The 2. Lig (Second League) was created at the start of the season and the Millî Lig became known as the 1.Lig (First League). Before the creation of a second division, the bottom three clubs competed with regional league winners in a competition called the Baraj Games. The top three teams of the seven-team group were promoted to the Millî Lig. After the creation of a new second division in 2001, known as the 1. Lig, the formerly titled 1. Lig was rebranded as Süper Lig. The Fenerbahçe–Galatasaray derby is the most watched football game in Turkey. It is considered to be one of the best and most intense in the world. British Daily Mail ranked it second among the ten greatest of all-time.