All you need to know about UEFA’s complicated new Champions League format

UEFA Champions League

FROM next season, the format for the UEFA Champions League will undergo drastic changes, with the new system much more complex than the current one.

UEFA Champions League

Currently, there are 32 clubs in the group phase, split into eight groups, with the clubs in each pool playing each other home and away.

The first two teams from each group advance to the round of 16, the teams in third place drop down to the Europa League and the teams in bottom spot are eliminated.

The proposed new format, which begins next season, is not so straightforward.

UEFA’s Breakdown of the new system

According to UEFA’s breakdown of the new system today, 36 teams will begin the ‘league phase’ from next season.

There will be no groups as all 36 teams will be in one league.

Under this new format, teams will play eight matches in the new league phase (former group stage). They will no longer play three opponents twice – home and away – but will instead face fixtures against eight different teams, playing four of those matches at home and four of them away.

To determine the eight different opponents, UEFA says the teams will initially be ranked in four seeding pots. Each team will then be drawn to play two opponents from each of these pots, playing one match against a team from each pot at home, and one away.

At the end of the league phase, the top eight teams will proceed to the round of 16.

To complete the teams for the round of 16, the sides finishing ninth to 24th will go into a play-off round, where eight of them will advance to join the top eight.

The 12 teams finishing in 25th to 36th after the league phase will be eliminated.


Despite the criticism of this convoluted system especially as it adds more matches to an already packed calendar, UEFA claims it ‘based its design on extensive consultations with key stakeholders in the European football community’.

“UEFA has clearly shown that we are fully committed to respecting the fundamental values of sport and to defending the key principle of open competitions, with qualification based on sporting merit, fully in line with the values and solidarity-based European sports model,” said UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin.

“I am really pleased that it was a unanimous decision of the UEFA Executive Committee, with the European Club Association, European Leagues and national associations all agreeing with the proposal made. Another proof that European football is more united than ever.”

Over the years, UEFA has changed the formats of its competitions, and the Europa League and Conference League will also undergo changes from next season.


1. 36 teams instead of 32
2. Single league phase, no more groups
3. Each team will play eight matches in the league phase
4. First eight teams advance to round of 16
5. Teams finishing in ninth to 24th go to play-off round to complete round of 16 teams.

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