UEFA gives the green light to the new Champions League format

Trophy awarded to the winner of the Champions League. / Fabrice Coffrini (Afp)

The number of matches planned in the league that will replace the current group stage is reduced from ten to eight and there will be no places assigned 'by hand' for clubs that have not qualified on sporting merit

Oscar Bellot

The revolution of the Champions takes definitive form. The UEFA Executive Committee gave the green light this Tuesday to the new format that will structure the top continental competition from the 2024-25 season. The system that will be launched presents significant changes with respect to the model initially planned with which the governing body of European football tries to bury the controversy that had unleashed the possibility of assigning places 'by finger' instead of attending only to meritocracy and also overcome the resistance of the main leagues, which saw their own business threatened by the increase in matches and the option that some days would be played on weekends.

Finally it will not be like that, since UEFA has chosen to smooth things over. The main modifications introduced with respect to the project announced on April 19, 2021 concern the reduction from ten to eight of the number of matches that the 36 participants will play in the new league based on the so-called 'Swiss system' that will replace the current phase of groups and the disappearance of places assigned 'by finger' for clubs that have not qualified due to sporting merits accumulated in the last season.

As of the 2024-25 campaign, there will be 36 teams that will participate in the Champions League, instead of the current 32. This will lead to the disappearance of the group stage, which has been a constant since the current model was consolidated in the 1999-2000 academic year, and its replacement by a league in which each team will play eight games against eight different rivals (four at home and another four away), instead of the current six games against the three opponents in their group. These clashes will be played in the ten weeks provided for in the calendar that was set in April 2021 and it is not contemplated that they be held on weekends, an option that upset domestic competitions. Only the final, as is the case now, will be played on the weekend.

The top eight teams in the group will automatically qualify for the knockout stage, while the teams ranked ninth to twenty-fourth will play a two-legged tie to secure passage to the Champions League round of 16.

Distribution of additional seats

Regarding the four additional places created by the increase from 32 to 36 teams in the Champions League phase, they will be allocated as follows. A place will be awarded to the club ranked third in the championship from the association ranked fifth in UEFA's ranking of national associations. Another will go to the champion of a domestic tournament, increasing from four to five the number of clubs that qualify through the so-called 'champions route'. The last two places will go to the federations with the best collective performance of their clubs in the previous season. Based on this last criterion, England and the Netherlands would have had an additional representative in the next edition of the Champions League.

Similar format changes will also apply to the Europa League (eight matches in the league phase) and the Conference League (six matches in the league phase) with both competitions also including 36 teams in the league phase.

The UEFA president welcomed the changes in the format of European tournaments, with which it is intended to increase their attractiveness and the volume of business they generate, and gave them as an example of his commitment to an inclusive practice that attends only to sporting merits , as opposed to the initial approaches of the Super League that established a closed competition. "UEFA has clearly demonstrated today that we are fully committed to respecting the fundamental values ​​of sport and upholding the key principle of open competitions, with ranking based on sporting merit, fully in line with the values ​​and model supportive European sport”, asserted Aleksander Ceferin.

“We are convinced that the chosen format strikes the right balance and that it will improve the competitive balance and generate strong income that can be distributed to clubs, leagues and grassroots football across our continent, while increasing the appeal and popularity of our club competitions", stressed the Slovenian leader, who placed special emphasis on the consensus generated by the new model, which guarantees that "the dream of participating will continue to be for all clubs".

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