The Uefa Champions League trophy.
The Uefa Champions League trophy.
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Why the Champions League is changing – and what it means for Premier League clubs

The Champions League is one of the greatest competitions in the history of football – so obviously Uefa have decided to change a tried and tested format that has produced some of the sport’s most memorable moments in recent years. 

The competition is changing format from next season onwards, and Uefa have revealed how exactly it will work.

Whether or not it will be a success, remains to be seen.

What is the new Champions League format?

The Champions League will no longer a group stage containing 32 teams and instead feature 36 teams in a league format, or “the Swiss model”. This is the biggest departure since the European Cup changed name and switched from a complete knockout tournament to feature groups in 1992.

 

Each team that qualifies for the Champions League will be drawn against eight different opponents, two from each of the four seeding pots. They will play four games at home and four away.

These same changes will be made to the Europa League, while clubs in the Europa Conference League will face six opponents, one from each of the six seeding pots.

The top eight teams in the standings qualify directly for the round of 16, while teams ranked 9th to 24th will face off in the knockout play-off round. The bottom 12 sides are eliminated altogether, meaning we will no longer see teams drop from one competition to the next.

The knockout stage will continue to see teams face off in two-legged ties home and away, culminating in the single leg final.

Why is the Champions League changing format in 2024/25?

Uefa brought in these changes after the proposed European Super League project crashed and burned in 2021.

The ESL – which included Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Man City and Spurs – would have seen 20 clubs from around Europe partake in a semi-closed competition.

 

The negative reaction to the idea from fans and the wider football world saw it collapse within days of being announced, although Barcelona and Real Madrid are still clinging on in the extremely faint hope it will come to fruition.

The Swiss model was proposed to counteract the ESL, although many see it as a capitulation to Europe’s biggest clubs, who are eager to maximise their revenue from the competition.

How do Premier League clubs qualify?

Premier League clubs can still qualify for the Champions League the same way they have always done – by finishing in the top four of the table.

However, with the competition expanding to 36 teams, there is the possibility of a fifth club from England earning qualification through their league position.

An additional place to be allocated to the two countries whose clubs perform best across all Uefa competitions this season. Serie A and the Bundesliga currently lead the coefficients table for these bonus spots, although the Premier League is projected to finish in the top two.

Uefa's coefficients table for the Champions League bonus spots.
Uefa’s coefficients table for the Champions League bonus spots.

In theory, seven English teams could qualify for the Champions League, but that would require two Premier League clubs to win the Champions League and Europa League while finishing outside the top five in the table.

Read – The best Champions League wins by Premier League teams

See Also – Why Real Madrid are the team to beat in the Champions League

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