The Champions League format for next season? Europe’s elite competition set for major changes

A look at all the changes as UEFA prepares to implement a new-look competition next year.

The draw for the 2023-24 Champions League group stage took place yesterday. But this will be the last time we see the competition as we know it.

President of UEFA, Aleksander Ceferin, had earlier approved plans back in April that would see a change in the format of the competition starting in 2024-25.

The top competition in Europe will feature a record number of teams and a brand-new format.

Champions League format changes

The Champions League format will undergo a number of significant modifications beginning with the 2024–25 season. The elimination of the customary group stage is the most significant of these.

Thirty-six (36) teams will be participating instead of the customary 32 teams, and they will all participate in the same league phase i.e, a single league phase.

Eight games will be guaranteed for each side, four of which will be played at home and four away. Additionally, each game will be played over a specified 10-week period.

This means that there will be more games played overall because 189 matches will be contested instead of the regular 125.

The top eight teams from the league phase will automatically advance to the knockout round.

In the meantime, those who placed ninth through 24th in the league will compete in a play-off over two legs to determine who advances to the round of 16.

From the 2024–25 season onward, the Champions League will feature four additional clubs, which could allow the Premier League to qualify a fifth team.

According to UEFA’s announcement, the countries with the best overall performance in Europe during the previous season would receive two of the four new slots.

This is calculated by dividing the total points obtained by the total teams taking part in European competitions.

Seeding teams at the Champions League draws
The two leagues with the top coefficients will earn another Champions League place

One of the additional places will go to the club who finish third in the league ranked fifth by UEFA’s coefficient. With another being awarded to a domestic champion, increasing the clubs’ qualifying through the ‘Champions Path’ from four to five.

This could benefit England and Spain being that they have consistently been the top leagues in the Champions League in the past 5 years. England would have earned a second Champions League spot in four of the previous five seasons if these regulations had been in place.

A further change will allow clubs from the same nation to compete against one another in the preliminary knockout rounds.

Teams from the same league cannot play one another under the present system until the quarterfinals.

Similar changes to the Europa League and Europa Conference League’s format will take place the following season in 2025-26. With eight games played during the new league phase, the Europa League will operate under the same format as the Champions League.

Teams will only play six games in the Conference League throughout that period.

Why have the changes been made?

According to a statement on the UEFA website, the changes are ‘designed to secure the positive future of European football at every level and meet the evolving needs of all its stakeholders.

‘Unequivocally confirming joint commitment to the principle of open competition and sporting merit across the continent, the common purpose has also been to sustain domestic leagues.’

Aleksandar Ceferin during an interview
Aleksandar Ceferin has said the new format supports the future of domestic and European football

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin added,

“This new format supports the status and future of the domestic game throughout Europe as well.”

“It retains the principle that domestic performance should be the key to qualification and reconfirms the principles of solidarity right through the game and of open competition.”

“The evolved format will still keep alive the dream of any team in Europe to participate in the UEFA Champions League thanks to results obtained on the pitch and it will enable long-term viability, prosperity and growth for everyone in European football.”

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