The UEFA Champions League is set to undergo a major change from the start of the 2024/25 season.
The elite European competition is set to be altered, ending a number of years of intense debate over the merits of the changes to the format.
The Premier League could potentially be in line to earn five qualification spots, but there is also a scenario in which there are seven English teams playing in the competition.
The changes are set to be announced by Aleksander Ceferin, who is UEFA’s president, this week, and these alterations could finally put an end to any potential Super League.
The changes are major and could see more meetings between clubs from the same domestic league. Here’s everything you need to know.
How many teams will play in the Champions League?
There will be four teams added to the tournament, meaning that there will be 36 teams instead of 32 from 2024/25.
That now means that there will be 189 matches in the tournament, rather than 125.
Two of the new four slots will be awarded to countries whose clubs achieve the best collective performance over the previous season.
Based on this season, that would mean an extra place for the Premier League and the Eredivisie in the Netherlands.
UEFA has also confirmed that another place will go to the third-placed league team in the country standing fifth in their rankings – that team would join the third qualifying round.
Another will be awarded to a domestic champion by extending from four to five the number of clubs qualifying via the so-called ‘Champions Path’ play-offs.
The group stage will also be scrapped, and be replaced by a league phase, which has been named the ‘Swiss Model’.
What is the league phase?
Each team will be playing eight times in the league phase as a minimum, and they will play four at home and four away, on a seeded basis.
The top eight sides will qualify automatically for the knockout phase; the teams that finish ninth to 24th will then play in a two-legged play-off to decide who reaches the knockouts.
The eight matches will be spread out over 10 weeks, meaning that there will be an exclusive week dedicated to European football, with games being played in the Champions League, Europa League, and the Europa Conference League.
How does the Swiss Model work?
This is a bit complicated in principle but will be easier to understand once the tournament actually gets underway.
The fixtures would be arranged via seedings, designed to ensure that each team plays a set of fixtures of similar strength.
Four will be played at home and four will be played away, and there will be no repetition of opponents, unlike the current Champions League format where teams play each other twice in the group stages.
How many Premier League teams can qualify?
There is the prospect of the Premier League having seven teams in the competition.
That would happen with the top four qualifying for the tournament, and then the fifth potentially earning a spot via the coefficient prize.
Then, there is the prospect of a sixth-placed team or lower in the Premier League winning the Champions League and qualifying that way, while an English team could also win the Europa League and fail to finish in the top five.
That would lead to seven teams qualifying for the competition, although it is rated as incredibly unlikely given the fact that a team is not likely to win the Champions League and then finish outside of the qualifying spots.
Can Premier League teams meet?
Yes. But there has been a change made here.
As it currently stands, two teams from the same league cannot meet until the quarter-finals, but that is not going to be the case moving forward.
Instead, they can now meet in the play-off round to reach the last 16. As an example, if Liverpool were to finish ninth in the league phase, and Chelsea finished 12th, there is the possibility of the two sides meeting to determine who would reach the knockout stage.
English teams will not be drawn against each other when the initial league fixtures come out.
Will the knockout stages change?
There have been rumours suggesting that there could be a move to scrap two-legged semi-finals but there is no indication that will take place any time soon.
When the first iteration of the new Champions League takes place, there will be two-legged semi-finals as there are now.
After the league stage, the Champions League will play out in exactly the same way as it does now.
Is the ‘historic success’ debate over?
There were initially plans to allow teams who failed to qualify via their league position into the competition based on their past performance in the competition.
One example this season in the Premier League would be Manchester United, who could have earned a spot despite finishing outside of the top five.
This has been scrapped.
How does the Premier League benefit?
It is almost certain that there will now be five qualification spots available to Premier League teams.
England would have gained an extra place in the competition in four of the past five seasons had this iteration of the tournament started in 2017.
The current UEFA coefficient ranking places England at the top for both the association rankings and the season rankings. Again, were the iteration in place now, fifth place in the Premier League would qualify for the Champions League.
Who else benefits?
The second extra spot is likely to go to one of La Liga, the Bundesliga, or Serie A, depending on the performances in their leagues throughout a season.
The season country coefficient for this season, though, would see an extra spot handed to a Dutch club, meaning that third-placed Feyenoord would qualify for the Champions League.
What does this mean for the Premier League?
It’s good news for the clubs at the top end of the league, especially those who are traditionally battling to fight their way into the top four.
Last season, for example, Leicester City would have qualified for the tournament, while West Ham United would have been just one point off it. This season, Tottenham Hotspur would be guaranteed a spot after confirming their own fifth-placed finish.
However, it means that there is going to have to be a genuine revamp of the domestic calendar.
The Champions League is now set to be played in January for the first time, and the fixtures will continue to be played in midweek.
It could mean that FA Cup replays are potentially scrapped, while there are also likely to be changes made to the League Cup format.
Have there been changes made to the Europa League and Europa Conference League?
They will also adopt the Swiss Model and will work in much the same way as the newly reformed Champions League.
It may also mean that the Premier League expands qualification spots. If five teams qualify for the Champions League, it could mean that both sixth and seventh qualify for the Europa League, and eighth qualify for the Conference League, although this has yet to be confirmed.
In the Europa League, there will now be eight matches in the league phase, and there will be six in the Conference League. There will be 36 teams in each league phase.
Can eliminated teams drop into the Europa League?
This is the case currently, where finishing third in a Champions League group allows a team to drop into the second-tier competition, as Barcelona did this season.
That will not happen under the new format, meaning that those clubs who do not perform well in the league will simply be eliminated from European competition altogether.
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