Renewal of the Champions League – How the competition will work from 2024-25

UEFA has finally confirmed what the Champions League (UCL) will look like from the 2024-25 season, when it will move on to a tournament with 36 teams.

It’s going to be a dramatic departure from what fans are used to, so here’s a full analysis of what that means for a top-notch football competition.

Why is all this happening?

More games means more money, and the biggest clubs always take most of the broadcast revenue. Top teams also want to play more meaningful matches against their main rivals, which should be created at an earlier stage of the Champions League.

Does that mean more games?

According to the original plan proposed in 2021, the tournament should have almost doubled, from a total of 125 games to 225, with each team playing 10 games in the group stage.

However, that has now been reduced to eight group stage games, which means a total of 189 games per season.

This means that two additional days of the match will be needed for the group stage of the Champions League.

So what is the ‘Swiss model’?

Instead of teams being drawn in eight groups of four, as is now the case, all clubs are placed on one giant table based on points and then goal differences.

It is based on a tournament according to the Swiss system used in chess, where each team does not play against all the others. The key difference is that the chess format decides the next opponents of the team after each set of games, while in the Champions League all matches in the group stages will be known at the beginning of the season.

It is used in football in other competitions with a large number of participants, including the CONCACAF League of Nations qualifying competition where all teams played four games, but the results were transferred to one league of 34 nations.

How many teams will be in the new Champions League?

The number of clubs will increase from 32 to 36. The new format means that teams are guaranteed a minimum of eight games, and most will play at least 10.

Where do the 4 extra teams come from?

1) The the third-placed team in the league took fifth place by UEFA will go directly to the group stage (currently that club has to play two qualifying rounds). Historically, it has almost always been France. Based on league positions as of May 11 this season, AS Monaco would be promoted to the group stage of UCL. A Ligue 1 place in the qualifying round would fall to fourth place in the league, if so Rennes he would be lifted from the Europa League (UEL) in his current positions.

2) Additional team via the “Champions Road” qualifying route, which includes leagues ranked outside the top 10 in UEFA country coefficient. To give an idea of ​​who might benefit, the clubs that were defeated in the last qualifying round of this season were Brondby, Dinamo Zagreb, Ferencvaros and Ludogorets Razgrad.

In one phase, this was to be awarded to the highest ranked champions (according to the UEFA coefficient) in order not to automatically qualify for the group stage. However, UEFA changed that to make it a qualifying place, not a coefficient, which would benefit Shakhtar Donetsk in most seasons due to their high club coefficient, but Ukraine’s falling league coefficient.

3 and 4) Two seats are reserved for the two countries with the highest odds score in the current season. This season, fifth place in the Premier League and second in the Dutch Eredivisie would go directly to the group stage of the Champions League. Right now, that would be it Tottenham Hotspur and PSV Eindhoven.

What happened to places based on historical performance?

Originally, two seats were to be reserved for clubs with the highest five-year UEFA odds that failed to qualify for the Champions League.

Although the club would have to qualify for Europe to be eligible, it still meant there could be a leap forward. For example, Manchester United could finish in 8th place in the Premier League, win the FA Cup and be promoted to the Champions League based on their five-year odds. Man United would therefore jump above the team that finished in fifth place to play in the UCL.

It was decided that these two places are not “fully in line with the values ​​and solidarity of the European sports model” with qualifications based on sporting merit.

Who will benefit from the two odds places?

The interest was caused by the additional place of the Netherlands in the Champions League, because that place belonged to a team that is not from the “Big Five” league. However, historically, this is remarkable.

Looking back at the previous five seasons, England and Spain occupy nine of the 10 places.

2020-21: England, Spain
2019-20: Spain, Germany
2018-19: England, Spain
2017-18: England, Spain
2016-17: Spain, England

The beneficiaries would be Villarreal (three times), Arsenal (twice), Bayer Leverkusen, Chelsea, Getafe, Leicester City and Real Sociedad.

The Dutch Eredivisie have benefited from this season as they have had three clubs in the group stage of the European Conference League (UECL), all of which have progressed. Feyenoord Rotterdam reached the final, which was enough for the Dutch to win second place in the odds table. But positions 1 and 3-6 are occupied by the big five, which shows that a huge effort is needed to win the first two places.

In the five seasons before UECL, the Dutch finished 5th, 8th, 7th, 29th and 9th in the odds table.

If a country gets a coefficient place, it is an additional team in Europe. Thus, for example, the Premier League would get eight seats, while non-UCL positions would fall by one.

Champions League: 1-5
Europa League: 6, FA Cup winners
European Conference League: Carabao Cup winners

If the cup winners finish in the top 6, places could fall to 7th and 8th in the table.

It also means it is becoming technically possible for 11 clubs to qualify, more than half of the Premier League; seven teams that qualify according to domestic performance, odds and three European champions (if they do not qualify domestically).

Is a one-year odds system better than historical performance?

There are advantages and disadvantages.

On the one hand, the original plan rewarded teams that played well in Europe over a five-year period. This created a safety net, which could give a big club like Manchester United a path to the Champions League.

Last season, Benfica (twice), Arsenal, AS Roma, Chelsea, FC Porto, Napoli and Shakhtar Donetsk would get a place according to the original plan. Arsenal, Chelsea and Napoli would benefit from both systems.

Others argue that the new plan allows smaller clubs to benefit from the performances of others. Why should Getafe, Leicester and Real Sociedad get a place in the UCL for fifth place just because other teams in their league have performed well in Europe in one particular season?

How will they decide on the schedule of matches?

UEFA is expected to create four pots from nine teams, almost certainly based on a five-year club odds. Each team will play with two teams from each pot (one at home, one away) to create a match list for eight games of approximately equal strength.

More “big games” are being created by teams in the top pots drawn from each other, which was not possible in the current system.

For example, teams from Pot 1 would draw two other clubs from Pot 1, 2, 3 and 4. Teams from the same association still cannot play each other in the group stage.

This is what California pots would look like, based on the entry of 36 Champions League teams under the new system and last season’s final league tables.

Route 1: Chelsea, Villarreal, Atletico Madrid, Manchester City, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Lille, Sporting CP, Real Madrid

Route 2: Barcelona, ​​Juventus, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Sevilla, Borussia Dortmund, FC Porto, Ajax

Route 3: Shakhtar Donetsk, Lyon, RB Leipzig, FC Salzburg, Benfica, Atalanta, Zenit St. Petersburg, Besiktas, Dynamo Kyiv

Route 4: Dinamo Zagreb, Club Brugge, Young Boys, Leicester City, AC Milan, Real Sociedad, Malmo, VfL Wolfsburg, Sheriff Tiraspol

So, the Premier League champion Manchester City could have a list of matches of the “Swiss model”: Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Benfica, FC Salzburg, Young Boys, Sheriff Tiraspol.

So who goes through the knockout rounds?

The top eight advance directly to the round of 16 and will be the winners in the draw. Clubs that are in 9th to 24th place will enter the playoffs in two games, with the winners being the teams without seedlings and the losers being eliminated. From 2024 to 2025, there will be no relegation of the team in the knockout round of the European League. Clubs from 25th to 36th will be eliminated from Europe immediately.

This means that a team that is ranked 24th in the group stage, good enough for a place without a holder in the Europa League under the current system, could actually become a European champion.

The competition then returns to its traditional format from the round of 16 onwards.

What about the Europa League and the European Conference League?

Both competitions will also switch to the Swiss model from 2024 and will increase from 32 to 36 teams.

Eight group matches will be played in the Europa League, but only six in the European Conference League.

There will be playoffs again to reach the round of 16, but there are no relegations from the Europa League to the European Conference League.

This is good news for teams that have qualified for the group stage. One of the four semi-finalists of the European League this season dropped out of the Champions League, and two of the final four of the European League were in the group stage of the European League.

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