UEFA has introduced a new Champions League format set to take effect from 2024/2025 season.
UEFA officials, clubs, and leagues were all involved in the approval of the final format and access list for European club competitions further to its decision of April 2021 to introduce the so-called “Swiss system”.
The most significant addition is the expanded format which will increase the number of teams from 32 to 36, group stage matches to eight instead of six.
This confirms UEFA’s strong commitment to the principle of open competitions and sporting merit, while recognising the need to protect domestic leagues.
The UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League will all enjoy one week of calendar exclusivity.
The four additional places created by the increase from 32 to 36 teams in the league phase of the UEFA Champions League will be allocated as follows:
1. One place will go to the club ranked third in the championship of the association in fifth position in the UEFA national association ranking.
2. One place will be awarded to a domestic champion by extending from four to five the number of clubs qualifying via the so-called “Champions Path”.
3. The final two places will go to the associations with the best collective performance by their clubs in the previous season (total number of points obtained divided by the number of participating clubs). Those two associations will earn one place for the club best ranked in the domestic league behind the UEFA Champions League positions.
For example, at the end of the current season the two associations adding one club to the Champions League, based on the collective performance of their clubs would be England and the Netherlands.
4. The UEFA Executive Committee once again confirmed that all games before the final will still be played midweek, recognising the importance of the domestic calendar of games across Europe.
UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin commenting on the decisions, said:
“UEFA has clearly shown today 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.
“Today’s decisions conclude an extensive consultation process during which we listened to the ideas of fans, players, coaches, national associations, clubs and leagues to name but a few, with the aim to find the best solution for the development and success of European football, both domestically and on the international club stage.”
“We are convinced that the format chosen strikes the right balance and that it will improve the competitive balance and generate solid revenues that can be distributed to clubs, leagues and into grassroots football across our continent while increasing the appeal and popularity of our club competitions.”
“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.”
“Qualification will thus remain purely based on sporting performance and the dream to participate will remain for all clubs.”
1. The first main stage of the new-look Champions League will see teams placed in a single standing rather than eight groups.
Only eight teams will qualify automatically for the round of 16.
2. Any team finishing up to 24th out of the 36 teams will go through a playoff to secure entry into the 16-team round.
3. There would be 10 weeks set aside for European games from 2024 but two weeks are set to be reserved for the Europa League and Europa Conference League.
The 32-team Champions League currently produces 96 games in the group stage.
As a result, UEFA predicts a revenue increase of about 40% from the current €3.5 billion ($3.8 billion) annually from its club competitions.
Similar format changes will also be applied to the UEFA Europa League (8 matches in the league stage) and UEFA Europa Conference League (6 matches in the league stage) and both will also include 36 teams in the league phase.