Looking at recent domestic league statistics, it would be easy to put Paris Saint Germain on the shortlist of European football powerhouses. The soccer club has won three consecutive titles in France's Ligue 1 and could more or less coast to another in the 2015/16 campaign. That dominance is similar to what Bayern Munich have managed in Germany, or what Juventus have orchestrated in Italy, and we all know that those two teams are probably in the top five for all of Europe's soccer clubs.

No European Titles

Unlike Bayern Munich and Juventus, though, there is some question about whether or not PSG have what it takes to compete with the top European clubs. Both Bayern and Juve have won the Champions League title before-Bayern five times and Juventus twice. In addition, both clubs have experienced great success at the tournament recently. The Bavarians won their most recent UCL trophy in 2013, while the Zebras finished as the runners-up in last year's tournament, losing to one of the best FC Barcelona teams in history.

Paris Saint Germain, meanwhile, have never won the Champions League or even reached the championship match. The soccer club's highest finish in the prestigious tournament came back in 1995 when they lost to Milan in the semi-finals. Granted, PSG's Ligue 1 dominance is relatively new, but even since becoming the top football club in France, the Parisians haven't made much of a dent in the Champions League. In 2013, 2014, and 2015, the team bowed out of the UCL tournament after the quarterfinals.

Close Calls

To be fair, the Parisians have had tough draws in the quarterfinals for the past few years. Twice, in 2013 and 2015, they were drawn against Barcelona, and in 2014, they came up against Chelsea.

In the first two years, PSG at least came close to advancing. In 2013, they ended up with a 3-3 aggregate after draws in both legs. Barcelona advanced based on away goals. In 2014, on the other hand, the Parisians butchered Chelsea in the home leg, winning 3-1 to take an early and seemingly insurmountable lead in the aggregate. But the Blues won the second leg 2-0, tying the aggregate at 3-3. Once again, Paris Saint Germain were eliminated on the away goals rule.

In 2015, PSG at very last got revenge against Chelsea. Meeting in the round of 16, the two soccer clubs again clashed in a 3-3 aggregate. This time, though, the Parisians had the away goal advantage. Unfortunately, that advantage merely earned Paris Saint Germain the privilege to take on Barcelona in the quarterfinals, and they simply weren't prepared for the challenge. They lost the home leg 1-3 and lost again at Barca's Camp Nou, 0-2. The final aggregate, 1-5, was the worst loss of the quarterfinal.

The Root of the Problem

This season, Paris Saint Germain have once again been drawn against Chelsea in the UCL round of 16. A 2-1 win in the home leg puts the French club in good position to advance to the next round. But if and when they do, will the Parisians be able to compete against whomever they meet there? Or will PSG be eliminated from the Champions League in the quarterfinals for the fourth year in a row?

If PSG do miss out on the semifinals or the finals again, it won't be because they lack talent. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani, and Angel di Maria have been impressive this season, to say the least. Ibrahimovic, especially, is an all-time great, a player who has scored 46 in 116 Champions League appearances since 2001. Granted, those goals and appearances came from Ibrahimovic's time at six different clubs, but they still make him one of the most impressive players in UCL history.

So what's the issue? Why can't a football club with so much talent and so much domestic league momentum seem to find success on the European stage? PSG have never even won the Europa League. Their only European titles come from now-defunct UEFA events like the Cup Winners' Cup and the Intertoto Cup.

Ostensibly, the root of the problem is that Paris Saint Germain just aren't challenged enough on a regular basis to be ready for the loftier pressures of the Champions League. Said another way, the Parisians are just too good for the French Ligue 1.

The Inequity of the Ligue 1

Need proof that PSG aren't being challenged in their current domestic league? All you have to do is take a look at this season's Ligue 1 table. Paris Saint Germain are currently leading the league, with just one defeat. They are more than 20 points ahead of the next team, Monaco, who themselves are significantly ahead of other "contenders" like Nice, Saint-Etienne, and Olympique Lyonnais. Mathematically, PSG could still lose the Ligue 1 title if they just stop winning games, but the likelihood of that happening is so low that the league might as well start engraving the trophy now.

The past few seasons have been closer than the current one but have still been fairly easy wins for Paris Saint Germain. In 2014 and 2015, the soccer club won the league by a nine-point advantage. In 2013, they beat Marseille by 12 points.

The lack of competition in the Ligue 1 isn't exactly surprising. French Football Weekly says that PSG has a seasonal budget of €490 million. If that budgetary figure is accurate, it's roughly four times bigger than any other soccer club in the league. In other words, Paris Saint Germain are basically buying the Ligue 1 trophy. They have such a big stable of talent and such a huge war chest of cash that they are simply in a different league from every other team in the French top-flight. Unfortunately, there's not another league into which the Parisians can be promoted.

The inequity of the Ligue 1 has had two major consequences. The first is that fans are losing interest in the division. Foregone conclusions can be fun regardless of their inevitability. Just look at the German Bundesliga for an example of a league that usually ends in favor of the same team, but is competitive and fun to watch nonetheless. But a 20+ point advantage with 10 or so games still to go in the season isn't much fun for anyone but Paris Saint Germain supporters, which means that French fans looking for great football have begun focusing on other European leagues.

The second consequence is that Paris Saint Germain, France's best hope for a continental soccer title, can't quite compete on the European stage. It's not that PSG aren't good enough: if the Parisians had a division like the La Liga or the Premier League to hone their skills, they'd be more ready for the challenges of the Champions League. Right now, though, there is a gulf in difficulty between playing the toughest teams in France and facing off against a global powerhouse like Barcelona or Bayern Munich.

France's Champions League Problem

To be fair, Paris Saint Germain is not the first great French football club to struggle on the European stage. The 2015/16 campaign marks the 61st incarnation of the Champions League. 15 of those titles have gone to Spanish clubs; 12 to Italian teams; 12 to England; seven to Germany; four to Portugal; and three to the Netherlands. Only a single Champions League trophy has ever gone to a French football club: Marseille, in 1993.

That statistic shows that, perhaps, the French Ligue 1 has just never been quite powerful enough to compete with Europe's other top leagues. Paris Saint Germain are trying to rewrite the narrative, and they have the money, the players, and the momentum to do it. The only question is whether or not the Parisians can get themselves ready for the bigger challenges they will surely face in the later rounds of the Champions League.