The Champions League is expected to include an eight-match group stage
UEFA officials, clubs and leagues have agreed revisions for the expanded Champions League format, including increasing the number of group stage fixtures to eight.
The reformatted group stage would still increase from 32 to 36 teams from 2024, but the number of rounds will only increase from six to eight per team instead of 10.
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The UEFA Club Competitions Committee has approved the format adjustments. The plan will now be voted on at the executive committee meeting.
Two additional places in the expanded format would be allocated to the two top-ranked UEFA countries based on their teams’ results in European competitions in the previous season. If the system was already in place, it would mean fifth-place England would qualify for the Champions League with an automatic second place for the Netherlands. The team finishing third in the Dutch league would have a chance to participate in the qualifying rounds.
“UEFA has made it clear today that we are fully committed to respecting the fundamental values of sport and defending the key principle of open competitions, with qualification based on sporting merit, fully in line with the values and the sporting model. European solidarity,” said UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin.
“Today’s decisions conclude an extensive consultation process during which we have listened to the ideas of supporters, players, coaches, national associations, clubs and leagues to name but a few. with the aim of finding the best solution for the development and success of European football, both at national level and on the international club scene.
“We are confident that the chosen format strikes the right balance and will improve the competitive balance and generate strong revenue which can be distributed to clubs, leagues and grassroots football across our continent while increasing the appeal and the popularity of our interclub competitions”
The original plan which sparked a backlash, particularly among middle-class clubs, would have awarded the two spots to teams with Europe’s strongest five-season record who failed to qualify in their leagues national.
The distribution of the other two expansion places will see an additional team qualifying from the fifth-ranked country in Europe – regularly France – and a fifth place for the national champions who do not automatically qualify.
The first main stage of the new Champions League will see teams placed in a single ranking rather than eight groups. Only eight teams will automatically qualify for the Round of 16. But finishing as high as 24th out of 36 teams will guarantee entry into the playoff round for 16 teams.
There would be 10 weeks reserved for European matches from 2024, but two weeks should be reserved for the Europa League and the Europa Conference League.
The 32-team Champions League produces 96 games in the group stage. Going from 10 to eight games per team will make 64 more games instead of 100 before the round of 16. This would impact UEFA’s revenue forecast increasing by around 40% from the current 3.5 billion euros ($3.8 billion) a year from its club competition.
The Champions League was created in 1992 from the European Cup, which began in 1955 and has been a knockout tournament for most of its existence.