New information on UEFA’s club competition reforms published
Imminent changes for UEFA club tournaments
Earlier this year, UEFA finalized major changes to the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League to start the 2024-25 season. However, few details have been released regarding the format beyond the basics.
A document released on Monday, October 17 further summarizes the changes that will occur. The information comes from the European Club Association, a group of leading clubs from UEFA’s member associations. Inside the document, things like the access list that will be used, the schedule, the knockout stage formula and the details surrounding the qualifying rounds have been revealed. Here’s a look at some of the most significant findings.
The new format itself and the calendar
Before the document was published, it was already known that each of Europe’s club competitions would drop a group stage. Instead, each tournament would grow from 32 to 36 teams, with clubs placed in a large table. From there, teams would face eight different opponents (six in the Europa Conference League) home or away.
The top eight teams at the end of this new format – called the “Swiss model” – would qualify for the round of 16. Clubs finishing 9th to 24th would enter the knockout stage, which is currently used in the Europa League and Conference League. The eight winners will then join the top eight in the championship phase.
As previously stated, there will be 10 weeks to allow for the completion of the League Phases. Each club competition will have a week dedicated to this single tournament. For the Champions League and the Europa League, this should happen in September on the first matchday. The Europa Conference League will have theirs in mid-December for its final round of fixtures.
It is expected that there will be two weeks of play in each of the months the group stage is currently being played, plus January. Only the Champions League and Europa League will have league stage matches in the new year.
Knockout Round Format Changes
There will no longer be a new draw after each knockout round. Instead, UEFA will put in place a support similar to that used in tennis or college basketball. Teams will be ranked in the group, without reseeding. The top two teams from the league stage will be on opposite sides of the bracket. It will be the same for the next two best teams, and so on until the 15th and 16th best teams. It is not yet known whether the same will apply to teams 17-24.
From there, a coin toss will take place to determine which half of the group each team will belong to, with the paired teams being opposed. Another new change will see teams from the same country no longer be separated from the knockout round. As things stand, teams from the same national association cannot play each other before the quarter-finals (exception occurs in the Europa League knock-out round).
Major changes to the access list will benefit everyone one way or another
Several adjustments have been made to the access list. As already known, there will be at least 33 domestic cup winners entering the Europa League in either the qualifying round or the league stage. This could increase to 37 depending on rebalancing. It is also confirmed that there will be a minimum of 37 countries represented in the league phase across the three tournaments, an increase of four from the current format.
As well as the cup winners, seven teams – one from each country ranked 6-12 in the access list – will also take part in the Europa League qualifiers. It is a significant change that will benefit leagues just below the “Big 5”.
The preliminary round of the Champions League will be over. Currently, the national champions of the four lowest-ranked countries in the access list play a mini-tournament for the right to participate in the first qualifying round of the competition. This will no longer happen, with all four teams automatically entering the first qualifying phase.
Finally, the Europa League will now have four qualifying rounds instead of two. This will bring it in line with the other two club competitions. This has been done to accommodate the minimum of 25 additional clubs that will start their continental campaign in the second tier tournament. The elimination round will no longer have a priority group, which was something very complicated for the fans to understand.
Access list linked to tenants to be rebalanced
The other major changes to the competitions will concern the defending champions. This is undoubtedly the biggest point of the lot. Whereas the idea of the “joker” was abandoned for the championship phaseit has not been entirely erased.
As has been the case for many years, the reigning champions of each UEFA club competition are guaranteed a place in the group stage the following season. Title holders UCL and UEL enter the group stage of the former, while the winner UECL automatically enters the UEL.
Whenever a team wins and qualifies for the competition via domestic performances, the champion of the highest ranked national association is not assured that a place in the group stage would fill the vacancy in the tournament. This will now change.
In the aforementioned scenario, the new change will see the highest ranked domestic champion in the qualifying rounds, according to the UEFA club coefficient, take the extra spot.
If the same idea occurs, but the Europa League title holder qualifies for the Champions League domestically, then the highest ranked team in UCL qualifying, champion or not, will take the place. .
In the event that the winner of the UECL qualifies for the group stage of the UCL or the UEL at national level, the highest ranked team in the UEL qualifiers, again by club coefficient of UEFA, will instead enter the league phase of the tournament.
It is important to note that in the last two scenarios mentioned, no leapfrogging is allowed. That is, if there are two teams from the same country in the Champions League qualifiers, only the domestic champion is taken into account when looking at the higher ranked team and not the runners-up. Similarly, in the Europa League, only cup winners will be considered, not third-placed teams from countries 8-12 on the access list.
And breathe… It’s a lot to take in. More and more seems to be changing with each cycle of the UEFA club competitions. Rest assured, UEFA certainly knew what they wanted to do by making all these amendments.