Champions League rule changes explained with one big 36-team league table
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The format of the Champions League is set to change next season after competition chiefs sanctioned an increase from 32 teams to 36 teams, with the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool potentially being affected. And Express Sport takes a look at how European’s top-tier club competition will be structured in the years to come.
How is the Champions League structured now?
Currently there are 32 clubs competing in the Champions League, with teams being drawn into one of eight groups. The eight group winners and the eight group runners-up progress to the knockout stages of the competition. The last 16, quarter-finals and semi-finals are played over two legs, with the one-legged final taking place at a stadium chosen long before the competition gets underway.
How will the Champions League be structured from the 2024/25 season?
The Champions League is set to adopt the Swiss model, where there will be one big group. Each team will play eight matches against eight different teams, with four at home and four away.
The fixtures will be determined ahead of the season courtesy of a draw. After each team have played their eight matches, the top eight teams in the table will automatically progress to the round of 16. Clubs that finish ninth to 24th will be involved in a two-legged play-off against another team for the opportunity to play in the last 16. There will then be two-legged knockout matches until the final.
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How will draws be made?
At the start of the season, the 36 participants will be divided into four pots of nine. Pot 1 will include the reigning champions as well as the eight clubs with the best coefficients. Pots 2, 3 and 4 will be ordered on club coefficients.
Each team will be drawn to play two teams from each pot, including their own. That means fans will be able to watch the best teams play each other much earlier than before as each team from Pot 1 will play two other teams from Pot 1 in the group stage. Clubs from the same country will generally be kept apart in the group stage. However, associations with four or more teams competing in the Champions League could play one match against a club from the same league. So fans could see two Premier League giants in action against each other in the group stage.
There will be only one draw for the round of 16 onwards, with teams being seeded based on their position in the group stage.
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How many games will there be in the Champions League?
The new Champions League format means there will be 189 Champions League games rather than 125 games. The group stage will end in January rather than December due to the extra matches.
Will teams still drop down to the Europa League?
Unlike in previous seasons, teams will not drop down to the Europa League once they have been knocked out of the Champions League.
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