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What’s the Champions League? Get to Know the New Format

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The American and European sports systems are different, so you shouldn’t be surprised if someone asks, “What’s the Champions League?” It’s the premier football club competition in Europe. The best teams from the leagues play against each other for the ultimate prize. 

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That said, the competition format changes from the 2024/25 season. The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) isn’t afraid of tinkering with the tournament, as it has always done so throughout its history. In this article, we detail the changes.

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Group Stage Changes

What’s the Champions League? Get to Know the New Format
Champions League opening ceremony. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-4.0

The group stage faces the biggest change in the Champions League format. The current system has 32 teams placed in eight groups of four through which they qualify for the round of 16. From the 2024/25 campaign, the number of clubs is to rise by four to 36 and will compete in a league format, in what’s described as the Swiss model. Four more teams will compete in the tournament. 

As opposed to the current system, where each team plays three teams home and away, clubs will play against eight opponents, half of the games at home and half away. The eight teams will be determined through seedings and every team will play against two opponents.

Another mega change is that teams from the same league can now play against one another. Currently, this isn’t the case until the semi-final stage. This means more exciting matches early on in the competition.

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Allocation of Four Extra Teams in Champions League Slots

What’s the Champions League? Get to Know the New Format
UEFA-Champions-League FC Bayern München and Juventus Turin. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-3.0

If you’re wondering how the four new teams get into the league phase, here’s how. 

  • The third team will take one slot from the fifth-ranked league in the UEFA Coefficient.
  • The other slot goes to a team in, the qualifying path. Currently, four teams emerge through this format, but in the new system, it will be five teams.
  • The other two slots will be taken up by the best-performing European leagues, christened the European Performance Spots. The best-performing teams that haven’t automatically qualified get a place in the league phase.

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UEFA Champions League Knockout Rounds Qualification

New Champions League format explained. Video Credit: Tifo Football

The overall ranking of the teams depends on the result of every game. The top eight teams automatically qualify for the round of 16. 

Teams between the 9th and 24th place will play a two-legged knock-out phase for a place in the next stage. 

Those below the 25th position face automatic elimination from Europe. They don’t have an option to drop into the Europa League as is currently the case.

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During the knockout playoffs, clubs between 9th and 16th will face those between 17th and 24th. The eight winners move into the round of 16 and compete against one of the automatic qualifiers.

The Champions League format remains the same from the round of 16 to the final. This means that the games will be played in mid-week in two-legged ties, and the final in a neutral stadium chosen by UEFA. 

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UEFA Europa League and Europa Conference League

These two  competitions ranking second and third to the Champions League will also have similar changes. Eight teams in the league phase in the Europa League and six teams in the Conference League. Also, 36 teams will play in the league phase.

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Scheduling of the Competition

Currently, teams play the Champions League group stage between September and December. Due to these changes, they’ll go on until January. The Conference League group phase will take place between September and December.

Champions League matches will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Europa League and the Conference League will take place on Thursdays. Each competition has an exclusive match week. 

This will see Champions League games played on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Europa League games will happen on Wednesday and Thursday and the Conference League on Thursday. 

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Increase in Number of Games

Currently, the Champions League has 125 games. Under the new system,  there’ll be 189 games. More games mean more money for advertisers and fans will watch the best teams take on each other from early on and throughout the tournament. 

If you are an avid viewer of the competition, start familiarizing yourself with the changes. Whether this will lead to a more competitive and better experience, we can only judge after the 2024/25 season.

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