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Everything you need to know about next season's new UCL format

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The Champions League will have a distinctly different look next season after UEFA announced sweeping changes to its marquee club competition starting in 2024-25.

Following more than 20 years under the current format, UEFA finally revealed plans for its highly anticipated revamped Champions League, apparently in response to the brief threat posed by the European Super League last year.

What’s different about the new format?

The removal of the group stage format is perhaps the biggest change announced Monday.

The 32-team group stage featured since 2003 will be replaced by a league phase and include an additional four teams, bringing the total number of Champions League participants to 36 clubs.

Next season, qualified teams will play eight games – two more than in previous years – in the opening round of the tournament.

Each club will be drawn against eight different opponents that it will play in four home and four away matches. Teams will be initially ranked in four seeding pots to determine their eight opponents.

The switch should make “top teams” meet earlier in the tournament more frequently, according to UEFA.

To allocate the four extra Champions League league phase spots, two places will go to teams in the best-performing leagues in Europe, based on their performance in the current season. The third will go to the third-ranked team in the league ranked fifth in the UEFA coefficient.

The fourth additional place goes to “a domestic champion by extending from four to five the number of clubs qualifying via the Champions path of the competition’s qualifying process,” which consists of four qualifying rounds.

How will the knockout phase work?

To directly qualify for the round of 16, teams must finish in the top eight positions of the league.

Clubs that finish between ninth place and 24th will meet in a two-legged knockout playoff round to determine who qualifies for the remaining eight spots in the round of 16.

Teams that finish 25th and lower are eliminated automatically and won’t be granted access to the Europa League.

After the round of 16, the tournament will continue to use its current format of two-legged knockout round games until the one-leg final.

“The new format, with all the teams ranked together in a single league, will mean that there is more to play for all the way through to the final night of the league phase,” UEFA said.

Will this affect the calendar?

Under the new system, first-round games in the Champions League and Europa League games will be played between September and January, while the Europa Conference League matches will take place from September until December.

Each league will have “one exclusive matchweek” in addition to standard weeks in which matches will be contested on the same days as this season.

However, during the Champions League-specific week, games will be played Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. On the Europa League week, games are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, while the Europa Conference League-specific week feature games on Thursdays.

What about the Europa League, Conference League?

The Europa League and the UEFA Europa Conference League will adopt similar changes to the Champions League, including a league phase instead of the group stage and expanding to 36 teams.

However, clubs in the UEFA Europa Conference League – which will be called UEFA Conference League after this season – are guaranteed six games in the opening round instead of eight, like the Champions League and Europa League.

The 2024-25 Champions League season officially kicks off July 9 and concludes with the final match on May 31, 2025.


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