UEFA has confirmed plans to revamp the Champions League which will be introduced at the start of the 2024/25 season in the biggest shakeup of the competition since the current format was introduced 30-years ago.
Members of Europe’s top leagues – including La Liga, Serie A and the Premier League – agreed to the proposals in April 2021 following the failed attempt at a breakaway European Super League by some of the continent’s biggest sides.
One of the most radical changes is the scrapping of the group stages, which were first introduced back in 1992 when the tournament was renamed as the Champions League, having originally been called the European Champions Cup since its creation in 1955.
The replacement, known as the ‘Swiss Model’, would see the current format of eight groups of four replaced with a system that sees each team playing ten different opponents, with qualification to the next stage based on one league table.
The new format will also see an increase in the number of teams competing from 32 to 36.
Three clubs will qualify based on their UEFA co-efficient which looks at past performance, meaning European heavyweights such as Manchester United and Real Madrid could still qualify even if they missed out on qualification via the conventional route.
Qualification for the last-16 will also be changed so that the top eight teams in the 36-team league would automatically reach the knockout phase, while the next 16 teams in the table would playoff for the final eight places.
Altogether there would be 225 matches in the competition compared to 125 and every club will be guaranteed 10 games, increasing revenue for each team involved.
WHAT IS THE SWISS MODEL?
The so-called ‘Swiss Model’ is favoured for a few reasons as, ultimately, it provides more games against other big teams, which means more revenue, while not putting so much pressure on domestic competitions that teams would require to play second-string teams.
Heres how it works:
– Teams will be split into seeded pots, as they are currently
– Each team will play 10 matches, five at home and five away
– These fixtures are derived based on your seeding. So, for example, if Manchester United were seeded in pot one, they could expect two matches against other pot one teams, three matches against pot two and three, and two against pot four
– The home and away structure used at the moment is therefore scrapped
– Once all 10 matches have been played, all 32 teams are entered into a giant league table
– The top eight teams automatically qualify for the knockout stages, and are also guaranteed entry into the following season’s competition
– Teams ranked 9-24 then enter the playoff round where the winners join the top eight seeds in the Round of 16
– Once the 16 teams have been derived, fixtures will be ordered based on the ranking in qualification. For example; Seed 1 will play against Seed 16, Seed 2 versus Seed 15, and so on.
– From there, the tournament takes on a regular format of home and away knockout competition until the final.
The qualification format will largely remain the same as it currently is for the Champions League but there will now be an extra four places up for grabs with UEFA explaining these slots will be assigned for the following:
One slot will be awarded to a club from the country placed fifth in UEFA’s coefficient rankings.
Another slot will be awarded to the domestic league champion with the highest club coefficient among the other domestic champions who have not automatically qualified – which would have been France at the start of the 2021/22 campaign.
The remaining two slots wil go to the two clubs with the highest UEFA co-efficients who have otherwise failed to qualify automatically for the league stage but have made it to a European trophy of some description that season.
WHAT UEFA SAY
A UEFA announcement reads: “The pivotal change in the reforms announced by the UEFA Executive Committee after its meeting on 19 April 2021 is the departure from the current format’s opening 32-team group stage.
“The present Champions League season begins with participants divided into eight groups of four. From the 2024/25 season, there will be a single league made up of all 36 competing clubs. This will give four more sides the opportunity to compete against the best clubs in Europe.
“Under the new format, teams will play four matches more than is currently the case.
“They will no longer play three opponents twice – home and away – but will instead face fixtures against 10 different teams, half of them at home and half of them away.
“This gives the opportunity for clubs to test themselves against a wider range of opponents – and also raises the prospect of fans seeing the top teams go head-to-head more often earlier in the competition.
“The new format should mean that there is more to play for right up until the final night of league action.”
The new-look tournament will get underway at the start of 2024/25 season, with clubs having the next three years to work their way up the UEFA co-efficients in order to be a part of it.
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