The new UEFA Champions League format - Season 2024/25
A new format of the UEFA Champions League looms after the 2023/24 season. No more group stages, and instead of 32 teams, now 36 teams will participate in the world's most prestigious club tournament. These are some of the changes that will take effect from the fall of 2024. Read more about the upcoming format and how it may redraw the tournament we've become accustomed to over the past few decades.
UEFA Champions League - New format for 2024/25:
- Expanded number of teams (36) spread across four qualifying groups based on the teams' coefficient points.
- The group stage is replaced by a league play with a single large table containing all teams.
- All teams play 8 matches, 4 at home and 4 away.
- Each team meets 2 teams from each pot (qualifying group).
- The top 8 teams advance to the knockout stage. Teams 9-24 play playoffs (double-header), where the winners take the remaining 8 knockout stage spots.
Group stage dropped and increased number of teams
It's hardly surprising that UEFA wants to increase the number of teams in its tournaments, both on the club and national team side. The current setup allows 32 teams to compete in the UEFA Champions League from the group stage kickoff. New from next season is that an additional 4 teams will join the tournament. The reason behind this can be discussed, but it's clear that more matches will be played.
But the biggest change is undoubtedly the fact that UEFA now chooses to scrap the group stage setup and instead implements a type of league play where all teams can be drawn against each other. Instead of 6 group stage matches as we are used to from today's setup, each team will now play 8 matches, 4 at home and 4 away.
When all teams have played 8 matches, the top 8 teams advance to the knockout stage. Teams in places 9 to 24 will play a playoff over two matches (home/away), where the 8 winning teams complete the knockout stage quota. From the knockout stage where 16 teams are found, the setup looks identical compared to how it looks today, which means round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals, and finally the final.
How the draw is conducted
36 teams are divided into four groups of 9 teams each where the first pot contains the previous season's Champions League winner and the 8 teams with the highest ranking coefficient. Pots 2, 3, and 4 contain the remaining teams according to the teams' coefficients in descending order.
Each team is drawn against 2 teams from each pot. This means that a team from pot 1 faces two other teams from the same pot, something that has not been possible under the current format. The expansion of the number of matches means that this phase will be played until the end of January, compared to today's group stage phase which ends in December.