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UEFA Champions League

UEFA Champions League 2024-25 new group stage format: Explained

Published at :December 14, 2023 at 7:56 PM
Modified at :January 14, 2024 at 12:22 AM
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Aditya Chauhan


From the 2024-25 season, the UEFA Champions League will follow a new format

The UEFA Champions League 2023-24 group stage is finally over and 16 teams make it to the final 16. However, this was the last time that we saw 32 teams playing in the group stage. From the next season, this competition will be played among 36 teams.

Those 36 clubs will participate in a single league competition in which all 36 competing clubs are ranked together.

Under the new format, teams will play eight matches in the new league phase (former group stage). They will no longer play three opponents twice – home and away – but will instead face fixtures against eight different teams, playing half of those matches at home and half of them away.

To determine the eight different opponents, the teams will initially be ranked in four seeding pots. Each team will then be drawn to play two opponents from each of these pots, playing one match against a team from each pot at home, and one away.

This allows clubs to test themselves against a wider range of opponents and raises the prospect for fans of seeing the top teams go head-to-head more often and earlier in the competition. It will also result in more competitive matches for every club across the board.

How will the four extra Champions League group stage spots be allocated?

Qualification for the Champions League will continue to be open and depend on a club’s final position in the previous season’s domestic league competition combined with each association’s position in the association club coefficient ranking. The basis of the access list will remain the same as for the current season, and the additional four slots available in Champions League 2024-25 will be allocated as follows:

Slot one: This place will go to the club ranked third in the championship of the association in fifth position in the access list, which is determined by the UEFA Association club coefficient ranking.

Slot two: This place will be awarded to a domestic champion by extending from four to five the number of clubs qualifying via the Champions path of the competition’s qualifying process, which will consist of four qualifying rounds.

Slots three and four: These places will go to the associations with the best collective performance by their clubs in the previous season (i.e. the association club coefficient of the previous season, which is based on the total number of club coefficient points obtained by each club from an association divided by the number of participating clubs from that association). Those two associations will each earn one automatic place in the league phase (‘European Performance Spot’) for the club ranked next-best in their domestic league behind those clubs that have already qualified directly for the league phase.

How will teams reach the Champions League knockout phase and will the format for the knockout phase change?

The top eight sides in the league will qualify automatically for the round of 16, while the teams finishing in 9th to 24th place will compete in a two-legged knock-out phase play-off to secure their path to the last 16 of the competition. Teams that finish 25th or lower will be eliminated, with no access to the UEFA Europa League.

The new format, with all the teams ranked together in a single league, will mean that there is more to play for through to the final night of the league phase.

In the knockout phase, the teams which finished between 9th and 16th will be seeded in the knockout phase play-off draw, meaning they will face a team placed 17th to 24th – with, in principle, the return leg at home. The eight clubs which prevail in the knockout phase play-offs will then progress to the round of 16, where they will each face one of the top-eight finishers, who will be seeded in the round of 16.

To strengthen the synergy between the league and knockout phases, and to provide more sporting incentives during the league phase, the pairings of the knockout phase will also be partly determined by the league phase rankings, with a draw which likewise determines and lays out the route for teams to reach the final.

From the round of 16 onwards, the competition will continue to follow its existing format of knockout rounds leading to the final staged at a neutral venue selected by UEFA.

All games before the final will continue to be played in midweek, recognising the importance of the domestic calendar of games across Europe, while the final will continue to be played on a Saturday.

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