UEFA are considering ‘radical’ plans to expand the format of the Champions League with an increase to 36 teams from the 2024/25 season.
Leading clubs have long pushed for changes to Europe’s premier competition in a bid to increase the number of marquee fixtures in the football calendar, with expansion plans for the Champions League now reportedly gaining momentum.
The proposals include increasing the number of sides to make a 36-team tournament and two models are currently being considered for the group stages of the revamped competition, the first option understood to include six groups of six teams and fixtures remaining on a home and away basis.
According to the Telegraph, there is ‘growing support’ for the second and rather more radical option, a format which would see clubs playing their 10 group stage fixtures against 10 different sides. It is reported that fixtures would be decided by a ‘seeding system’ similar to that seen in a number of American sports – with the current format of playing each team twice in the group having ‘become stale’.
The alternative option would not only ‘allow more clashes between leading clubs in the group stages’, but crucially, would likely be ‘more attractive to broadcasters’.
Changes to the Champions League are likely to gain support from the Premier League‘s leading clubs who have already campaigned for a reduction to the domestic calendar amid the controversial ‘Project Big Picture’ proposals, the plans devised by Liverpool and backed by Manchester United having floated the idea to reduce the English top flight down to 18 teams as well as removing the League Cup and Community Shield.
Whilst those plans have been rejected amid plans to give England’s elite clubs increased power, talks are continuing over changes to English football and reducing what is a congested domestic schedule, with the removal of the League Cup and less Premier League fixtures potentially opening up more midweek dates for an expanded Champions League.
Increasing the number of teams in the Champions League will help appease the demands of Europe’s wealthiest clubs for more lucrative glamour ties against the continent’s finest, while it will also help satisfy the demands of the lesser leagues for more qualification berths for the tournament.
Europe’s top five leagues are currently handed 18 guaranteed positions in the group stages and last season saw the knockout stage line-up comprised entirely of sides from England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France..
Increasing the number of participating teams will help ease the ‘growing concerns’ from mid-sized leagues over their lack of pathway into the competition and talks are expected to continue over the expansion plans in the coming weeks,