The UEFA Champions League will be changing forever in the 2024/25 season.
Amid speculation that the European Super League could be making an unwanted return, many football fans are holding on to the current top club competition in the men’s game for dear life.
Don’t get it twisted, the Champions League is without fault, but the whirlwind competition where shocks, drama and comebacks can thrive make it one of sport’s most beloved tournaments.
Champions League vs European Super League
Besides, you only have to look at the current knockout rounds and how they’re tantalisingly shaping up ahead of the round of 16 second legs to see just how much excitement it inspires.
However, at the expense of being the bearer of bad news, we’re regretful to inform that the changes set to be made to the Champions League in 2024 might simply be the lesser of two evils compared to the European Super League.
Well, ok, maybe that’s slightly dramatic, but all the discourse surrounding the ‘ESL’ both last spring and in the last few days have meant that UEFA’s upcoming plans for their flagship competition have somewhat been forgotten.
At least, that was until the new regulations started to do the rounds on social media again this week, because it’s hard to underestimate just how game-changing UEFA’s planned alterations truly are.
European Super League returns (Football Terrace)
The 2024/25 Champions League format
So, just in case you need catching up on things, let’s revisit UEFA’s breakdown of the new Champions League set-up for the 2024/25 season onwards that was unveiled to the world in May.
Instead of 32 clubs spread across eight groups as we’ve become accustomed to, the Champions League will be altered to one massive league table comprised of 36 competitors.
The new format means that teams will play four more matches than under the current set-up with each club facing 10 different opponents in the group stages, five at home and five on the road.
This means that competitors will get the chance to test themselves against a wider ranger of adversaries with UEFA hoping that this leads to more high-profile clashes in the early stages of the tournament.
The top eight teams in the final league table will automatically qualify for the round of 16, while the sides that placed between ninth and 24th will then be added into an additional play-off round.
The clubs ranked between ninth and 16th will be seeded, leading to clashes with home advantage against the 17th-24th teams where the eight winners will also progress to the knockout rounds.
From the round of 16 onwards, the Champions League will remain in its current format. The Europa League and Europa Conference League will also experience their own versions of this set-up shift.
Champions League qualification will remain open and competitive, but special criteria has nevertheless been necessary to boost the cohort of clubs from 32 to the intended total of 36.
One slot will go to the team that ranked third in the league championship of the country that sits in fifth place of the UEFA national association ranking.
A second slot will be awarded to a domestic champion upon the extension of the ‘Champions Path’ from four clubs to five.
The final two positions will be handed out to the sides with the highest club coefficients that have not automatically qualified, but at least made it to the qualifying rounds, Europa League or Europa Conference League.
Pros and cons
And breathe. So, there’s plenty to take in, both good and bad.
It’s easy to see why UEFA think one massive league table with play-off rounds will increase the drama of the competition with every game potentially having a huge impact on teams’ position in the table.
However, on the flip side, there are many fans who are besotted with the current format and might even argue that the rules surrounding the extra four teams qualifying have shades of the ‘ESL’ about them.
But try as supporters might, it seems unlikely now that the Champions League will alter what they’ve already locked in. European Super League or not, the continent’s football is set for massive changes.
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