While football fans all around the world would argue over almost any topic in the sport, the UEFA Champions League is universally acknowledged as the most prestigious and intriguing club competition worldwide. It suffices to play the iconic UCL anthem to evoke some emotions in every football fan.
However, a section of fans and clubs alike have been calling for a change in the tournament’s format. UEFA finally concurred, so starting the 2024/25 campaign, we’ll be witnessing a series of significant modifications that will rock the competition to the core.
So what are the most elemental changes to the Champions League format? And why is it being implemented in the first place?
Let’s dig in.
Why the Champions League is Changing
The Champions League is changing format mainly for financial reasons. The new model will result in a larger number of matches and more direct encounters between the top clubs, which translates into higher revenues.
The big sides all over Europe have been complaining about the share they’re receiving from the competition’s revenues, believing they ought to earn more for their elemental role. After all, they’re the ones attracting interest in the tournament.
In April 2021, UEFA managed to weather the European Super League storm which threatened to end its role as the supreme organizational body governing the most important club competition in the sport.
Nevertheless, this highly controversial project was dangerous enough to leave a scar and accelerate UEFA’s plans to modernize the Champions League. Now whether these changes will do the trick or not remains to be seen.
Champions League 10 New Format Changes from 2024/25
This new Champions League format adopted starting from the 2024/25 campaign will be comprehensively different from the one we grew accustomed to in the last couple of decades. So we’ll enlist the most noticeable changes while dividing them into 10 paragraphs.
1. Bigger Number Of Clubs
We begin with one of the most important aspects. The new Champions League format will host 36 clubs in the group stage instead of 32. So who will take advantage of the four extra spots?
Two additional berths will be allocated to the two best performing leagues (countries), based on the average result of each league’s clubs in various European competitions. The top European leagues, like the English Premier League, the Spanish La Liga and Italian Serie A are the most likely candidates to snatch these two positions.
Another spot will be granted to the fifth-ranked league in Europe, while an additional berth will be given to the champions’ qualifying path which currently offers four domestic champions from lower-ranked leagues the chance to feature in the group stage, thus raising the total five.
2. Bigger Number Of Matches
With more teams taking part in the tournament, the number of matches will inevitably rise. Moreover, each team will play eight fixtures in the group stage. In the current format, the Champions League consists of 125 matches, whereas the 2024/25 edition will witness a total of 189 fixtures.
This will ultimately allow UEFA and the participating clubs to generate additional amounts of cash between prize money, matchday income and other streams of revenues.
3. Additional Top Clashes In Group Stage Round
Just like the old format, the new system will divide clubs into groups of four, with each two clubs facing one another home and away. But a new twist will see each club playing an additional match against two teams from the same pot.
Therefore, the highest-ranked clubs in Europe (consisting Pot 1) will be embroiled in direct clashes as early as the group stage, subsequently raising the total of the big showdowns throughout the competition.
4. The Swiss Model (Unified Table)
Now this might be the most eyebrow-raising change of it all: Instead of separated groups of four, the Swiss model pits all 36 clubs participating in the group stage in one unified table. Therefore, the groups will only serve to determine the fixtures list rather than the standings.
After eight matchdays, the clubs that finish in the Top Eight positions will qualify directly to the Round of 16. On the other hand, the teams that finish between the 9th and 24th places will compete in a playoff round.
5. Playoff Round
The playoff round will see the teams who finished the group stage between the 9th and 24th positions battle for the remaining eight spots in the Round of 16.
The Europa League and the Conference League have adopted a playoff round in recent editions – although in a different format – but this will be a novelty for the Champions League.
6. End Of Europa League Path
In the traditional format, eight eliminated Champions League clubs are granted a second opportunity in Europe, joining the ranks of the Europa League. Of course, we’re talking about the teams that finish third in their respective UCL groups.
But in the new format, eliminated teams (finishing between 25th and 36th positions) are sent packing, with the Europa League no longer serving as a fallback option.
7. Different Schedule
Due to the bigger number of matches, the schedule will inevitably witness some changes. For instance, the group stage will no longer conclude by late November or early-December. Instead, it will now be wrapped up in January.
8. No Draw Advantage For Domestic Champions
In the group stage draw of the current format, Pot 1 includes the winner of the previous Champions League edition, the Europa League winner and the champions of the highest-ranked domestic leagues. However, this has been modified, with the draw no longer offering an advantage to domestic champions or the EL winner.
Instead, Pot 1 will now include the UCL winner in addition to the eight clubs with the highest coefficient (based on their results in European competitions in the previous five seasons). Pots 2, 3 and 4 will also be determined based on the clubs’ UEFA coefficients.
9. Possible Intranational Clashes
In the current model, teams from the same association (country) cannot play against one another until the quarterfinal. However, the new format could see intranational battles as early as the group stage, though the odds could be relatively low for such a scenario.
While the draw won’t pit two compatriot clubs in the same group, they might face one another in a single match, but only if their association has four or more representatives in the tournament.
Moreover, no country protection will be applied in the playoff round or the Round of 16.
10. Single Knockout Draw
In the current format, the last draw occurs ahead of the quarterfinal round. But in the new system, the Round of 16 draw will also include a clear path for the following stages, all the way to the final.