How will the Champions League work next season?

The UEFA Champions League will be contested under a radically different format next season after massive changes were approved.

The change of format comes as the tournament expands from a 32-team showpiece, swelling to 36 teams from next term.

Those aren’t the only changes with a radically different group stage also coming in.

“UEFA has clearly shown that we are fully committed to respecting the fundamental values of sport and to defending the key principle of open competitions, with qualification based on sporting merit, fully in line with the values and solidarity-based European sports model,” said UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin

“I am really pleased that it was a unanimous decision of the UEFA Executive Committee, with the European Club Association, European Leagues and national associations all agreeing with the proposal made.

“Another proof that European football is more united than ever.”

How will the UEFA Champions League format change?

Under the new Champions League format, teams will play eight matches in the new league phase, which replaces the former group stage. 

Teams in the Champions League will no longer play three opponents twice – home and away. 

Instead qualified teams face fixtures against eight different sides, playing half of those matches at home and half away across the eight matchdays. 

Bayern Munich and FC Copenhagen in the UEFA Champions League. (Image by MICHAELA REHLE / AFP)

Will there still be a UEFA Champions League draw

There will still be a Champions League draw for the league phase.

Four seeding pots of nine teams will be settled by rankings. These rankings will be based on the current co-efficient system.

Each team will then be drawn to play two opponents from each of these pots. They will play one match against a team from each pot, home and away.

UEFA said: “This gives the opportunity for clubs to test themselves against a wider range of opponents and raises the prospect for fans of seeing the top teams go head to head more often and earlier in the competition. It will also result in more competitive matches for every club across the board.”

In effect this brings about the radical departure. The UEFA Champions League will take on a different look from next season.

How will teams reach the knockout phase?

The outcomes of each match will determine the overall standing in the new league, with three points for a victory and one for a draw remaining the points system in use.

The top eight clubs in the league will advance to the round of 16, while the teams ranking ninth to twenty-fourth will participate in an additional two-legged knockout phase play-off to clinch their spot in the competition’s final 16. 

Elimination faces teams who finish 25th or lower. They will not be eligible to compete in the UEFA Europa League.

UEFA claim: “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.”