As the elite club competition in Europe, qualifying for the Champions League is almost an imperative yearly objective for all big clubs in the Old Continent.
In fact, failing to reach the competition means missing out on prestigious midweek fixtures and major financial rewards.
As we all know, the strongest domestic leagues in Europe are always well-represented in the UCL. For instance, Four Premier Leagues take part in the competition every season.
But is it possible to have five teams representing the same country in a Champions League edition? And how about six teams?
We’ll reveal the answer by shedding some light on the competition’s rules and regulations.
How Many Teams Qualify for the Champions League?
The number of Champions League spots allocated to each domestic association is determined by the UEFA coefficient which is based on the results from the last five seasons in various European competitions.
The four highest-ranked leagues (currently EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A) have four automatic representatives in the Champions League group stage. These are the clubs that finish in the Top Four positions in each of the aforementioned leagues. Needless to say, a lower coefficient translates to fewer European spots.
However, UEFA rules offer an alternative road to Champions League qualification. The competition’s winner is guaranteed an automatic spot (along with a top ranking) in the following edition, and even the Europa League winner is granted access to the continent’s most prestigious competition.
So this poses the following question: What happens if the winners of the Champions League and Europa League finish outside of the Top four in a major domestic league like the Premier League? Is it possible to have five or six clubs from one country taking part in the competition?
Champions League Qualification Rules
As we mentioned above, the Champions League qualification rules largely depend on the UEFA coefficient which determines the number of spots allocated to each football association.
Generally speaking, the clubs that finish in the Top four positions of the highest-ranked domestic leagues in Europe (England, Spain, Germany and Italy) qualify for the competition’s group stage.
Nonetheless, this general rule does have some exceptions.
Does 4th Place Always Get Champions League?
The team that finishes 4th in the Premier League or one of the other Top four European leagues qualifies for the Champions barring one largely improbable scenario.
The one unlikely case where finishing fourth doesn’t warrant a UCL spot is the following: If the winners of the Champions League and Europa League are from the same country and both fail to finish in the Top four.
In this case, the two continental champions would accompany the clubs that finished in the Top three, while the fourth-placed team will have to settle for a spot in the Europa League group stage.
Can 5 Teams Qualify for the Champions League?
According to Article 3.06 from the Regulations of the Champions League, an association can exceptionally register five teams in the competition if the winners of the Champions League and/or Europa League fail to qualify for the UCL through the domestic league.
For instance, Eintracht Frankfurt won the Europa League in 2021/22, earning a Champions League spot in the process. But since they finished 11th in the Bundesliga standings, Germany had five representatives in the 2022/23 edition of the Champions League: The teams that finished in the Top four (Bayern Munich, Dortmund, Leverkusen and Leipzig) plus Frankfurt as EL winners.
Can 6 Teams Qualify for the Champions League?
The short answer is no. While the regulations exceptionally allow the entry of five clubs from the same country, the Champions League cannot host six teams from the same football association.
Therefore, if the winners of the Champions League and Europa League are from the same country and both fail to finish in the Top four spots of one of the four highly-ranked leagues, then the team that finishes fourth will pay the ultimate price. This unfortunate team would be demoted from the Champions League to the Europa League group stage, which would be a major hit from sporting and financial standpoints, as he’ll miss out on UCL’s lucrative prize money.