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New Format for UEFA Champions League (UCL) Explained Post-2024: All You Need To Know

European football maintains its status as one of the world’s most successful and beloved sports due to its continual evolution. Since its inception in 1955 as the European Champion Clubs’ Cup, UEFA has consistently adapted the UEFA Champions League to reflect the broader changes in the sport.

The development of the new format for the 2024/25 season was guided by extensive consultations with key stakeholders within the European football community. UEFA’s aim is to ensure that the revised format will provide optimal benefits for clubs, players, and fans alike. The final structure, access list, and calendar for European club competitions were ratified on May 10, 2022. This decision followed UEFA’s announcement on April 19, 2021, regarding the introduction of a new competition system.

licensed image 2 New Format for UEFA Champions League (UCL) Explained Post-2024: All You Need To Know
PARIS, FRANCE – FEBRUARY 08: Aleksander Ceferin, President of UEFA, speaks to the media during the 48th UEFA Ordinary Congress Press Conference at Maison De La Mutualite on February 08, 2024 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

UEFA has clearly shown that we are fully committed to respecting the fundamental values of sport and to defending the key principle of open competitions, with qualification based on sporting merit, fully in line with the values and solidarity-based European sports model,” said UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin. “I am really pleased that it was a unanimous decision of the UEFA Executive Committee, with the European Club Association, European Leagues and national associations all agreeing with the proposal made. Another proof that European football is more united than ever.”

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What Are The Changes Made To The Champions League Format from 2024/25?

The forthcoming changes to the UEFA Champions League format for the 2024/25 season represent a significant departure from the current structure, primarily characterized by the abandonment of the traditional group stage system. Currently, the group stage comprises 32 teams divided into eight groups of four. However, starting from the 2024/25 season, the Champions League will feature 36 participating clubs in the league phase, allowing four additional teams the opportunity to compete at the highest level in European football. In this revamped format, all 36 clubs will partake in a single league competition, with each team ranked together.

Under the new arrangement, teams will engage in eight matches during the league phase, eliminating the previous practice of facing three opponents twice – once at home and once away. Instead, teams will encounter fixtures against eight distinct opponents, with half of these matches played at home and the other half away. To determine these eight opponents, the teams will initially be categorized into four seeding pots. Subsequently, each team will be drawn to play against two opponents from each pot, engaging in one match against a team from each pot at home and one away.

This format adjustment offers clubs the opportunity to challenge themselves against a broader spectrum of opponents. It also enhances the potential for fans to witness top-tier teams clash more frequently and earlier in the competition. Furthermore, it promises a greater number of competitive matches for all clubs involved.

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What Are The Factors That Will Decide The Four Extra Champions League Group Stage Places To Be allocated?

Qualification for the Champions League will remain open and contingent upon a club’s final standing in the preceding season’s domestic league, along with each association’s position in the association club coefficient ranking. The access list will retain its current structure, with the allocation of the four additional slots for the 2024/25 season as follows:

1. Slot one: This position will be awarded to the club ranked third in the championship of the association n fifth position in the access list, which is determined by the UEFA association club coefficient ranking.

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FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football – UEFA Executive Committee News Conference – Nyon, Switzerland – April 7, 2022. A UEFA logo is displayed after the news conference. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

2. Slot two: This spot will be designated for a domestic champion by expanding the number of clubs qualifying via the Champions path of the competition’s qualifying process from four to five. This path will encompass four qualifying rounds.

3. Slots three and four: These positions will be granted to the associations with the most outstanding collective performance by their clubs in the previous season. This determination is based on the association club coefficient of the preceding season, calculated by dividing the total number of club coefficient points earned by each club from an association by the number of participating clubs from that association.

Consequently, these two associations will each secure one automatic place in the league phase (‘European Performance Spot’) for the club ranked next-best in their domestic league, following those clubs that have already directly qualified for the league phase.

How will Teams Reach the Champions League Knockout Stage and Will The Format for the Knockout Stage Change As Well?

Teams will reach the Champions League knockout phase through a combination of league phase results and a subsequent knockout phase. The format for the knockout phase will undergo adjustments to align with the revamped structure:

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Soccer Football – Champions League – Round of 16 Draw – Nyon, Switzerland – December 18, 2023 The Champions League trophy is displayed during the draw REUTERS/Pierre Albouy

League Phase Ranking: The results of each match in the league phase will determine the overall ranking, with three points awarded for a win and one for a draw, mirroring the current system.

Automatic Qualification: The top eight teams in the league phase will automatically qualify for the round of 16.

Play-off for Remaining Spots: Teams finishing between 9th and 24th place will engage in a two-legged knockout phase play-off to secure their advancement to the last 16. Teams ranking 25th or lower will be eliminated from further European competition, without access to the UEFA Europa League.

Knockout Phase Seeding: Teams finishing between 9th and 16th place will be seeded in the knockout phase play-off draw, facing teams placed 17th to 24th. The return leg of this phase will generally be played at the home stadium of the higher-ranked team.

Progression to Round of 16: The eight victorious clubs from the knockout phase play-offs will progress to the round of 16, where they will face one of the top-eight finishers. These top-eight teams will be seeded in the round of 16.

P3P4AP7SRNJDZHWZ6GGBJEABEY New Format for UEFA Champions League (UCL) Explained Post-2024: All You Need To Know
Soccer Football – Champions League Final – Manchester City v Inter Milan – Ataturk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey – June 11, 2023 General view of the Champions League trophy on display after the match REUTERS/Molly Darlington

Pairings Determined by Rankings: Pairings for the knockout phase will partly depend on the league phase rankings. A draw will determine the specific matchups and lay out the route for teams to progress to the final.

Continuation of Existing Format: From the round of 16 onwards, the competition will maintain its traditional format of knockout rounds leading to the final, which will be held at a neutral venue chosen by UEFA.

All matches preceding the final will continue to be scheduled during midweek, respecting the significance of domestic league fixtures across Europe. The final match will persist in being played on a Saturday.

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