Soccer

UEFA Champions League: Explaining new 36-team format, which will start in 2024-25 season

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Lost in the chaos of the Super League this week, the UEFA Champions League announced changes to the competition and adopted a new format that will be implemented starting in 2024-25. With that new format comes more games and more teams, but sometimes change can be a little tricky to understand. Here is everything you need to know about the new-look Champions League set to begin in three years.

So, what’s different?

The biggest chance right off the bat is the 32-team group stage is gone. While now the UCL has eight groups of four, the competition will change to one single table. It’s a table that will look like any other league table, only featuring 36 teams instead of the normal 20 that we see in the Premier League or La Liga. 

  • Teams in the table will play at least 10 games instead of the current six. 
  • There won’t be any more repeat matches during this initial stage, rather clubs will face 10 different opponents with half of the games at home and the other half on the road

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Where will the four extra spots go?

  • The first slot will go to the club ranked third in the table of the association that is fifth in UEFA’s association rankings. So, for example, that would mean the third place team from the currently ranked fifth league, France, would get into Champions League. Currently that position would go to AS Monaco, as they are third in Ligue 1.
  • The second slot will go to a domestic champion after expanding the “champions path” from four clubs to five.
  • The third and fourth slots go to the two clubs with the highest club coefficients that have not qualified automatically for the UCL’s league stage but have qualified either for the qualifying stage or Europa League/Europa Conference League. That essentially means the best performing teams, numbers wise, that did not get into the league stage but qualified for Europe, would get bumped up into the league phase.

Will there still be a round of 16?

Yes, the knockout stage will be pretty much what we are used to with 16 teams battling out. But how that happens is a tad different. The top eight teams will go into the last 16, but teams 9-24 will enter a playoff round. Teams 9-16 will be seeded, and 17-24 won’t be, with a draw pairing the teams for two-legged affairs. The teams who lose the playoffs enter the Europa League, while those finishing 25th and below are booted from European competition.  

From there, the round of 16 through the final will be the same format as we have now with two legs in the round of 16, quarterfinals and semifinals.

Why the switch?

UEFA says the main objectives with this format include more opportunities to see Europe’s top teams play each other, while also improving the importance of every match, hopefully eliminating late group stage games that mean next to nothing for some teams. Winning or losing, UEFA say, can make the difference between a side making the last 16, entering the playoffs or being eliminated. 



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