So, today we will focus on the biggest club competition in world football. There is a huge change happening in the UEFA Champions League (UCL) next season.
There will be a new format that is going to be introduced, this could create great debate; many will think why fix something that isn’t broke?
Well, UEFA argue that The UCL has evolved very positively throughout the years. As they state- ‘There is a reason that European football is one of the world's most successful and popular sports. It never stands still. Since the inaugural competition, known as the European Champion Clubs' Cup, kicked off in 1955, UEFA has continuously evolved and adapted the UEFA Champions League to keep pace with wider changes in the game.’
The new format is a huge change to the UCL, for many years there has been a group stage, this is where you a drawn into a group of 4 and you play each side twice home and away. The top two going into the round of 16 and third place going into Europa League while fourth are knocked out.
The New Champions League Format
Now, 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.
UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin stated that "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."
The present Champions’ League group stage includes 32 participants divided into eight groups of four. From the 2024/25 season, 36 clubs will participate in the Champions League phase (former group stage), giving four more sides the opportunity to compete against the best clubs in Europe. Those 36 clubs will participate in a single league competition in which all 36 competing clubs are ranked together.
With this new format it means fans will see their teams play 8 different teams, 4 at home and 4 away. This will create added excitement for many fans who only see their team play 3 different teams in the whole competition. The change is understandable as some teams fight all season just to compete in the competition and only play 3 different teams.
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.
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.
What does this mean for the fans?
The fans are the most important figure within football and UEFA are trying to discuss that this new format is to benefit fans for all the clubs. The new league format will involve more European teams in each competition. Meaning there will be more clubs displaying their talent on the biggest stage in Europe. This will allow fans to not only see elite European matches, but they will see them earlier on in the competition.
The new format will introduce a better competitive balance between all the teams, with the possibility for each team to play opponents of a similar competitive level throughout the league phase. This point is very important, as each club will face 8 DIFFERENT teams before the knockout stages. So, the idea of the ‘group of death’ will be demolished as all teams will play opposition of different quality.
Every game counts. The new league format will ensure that any result has the potential to dramatically change a team's position, right up to and including the very last matchday. Winning or losing the last game of the league phase could make the difference between a side qualifying automatically for the last 16, entering the play-offs or being eliminated from the competition altogether.
Not all fans will be happy with this change, as its not gradual, it is a huge change to the competition. However, there is huge potential in this new format to provide a very successful tournament!