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UEFA confirm slightly amended ‘final format’ for expanded (Super) Champions League

New ‘Swiss Model’ league format to start in 2024-25

Manchester City v Real Madrid Semi Final Leg One - UEFA Champions League Photo by Jan Kruger - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

It was in the wake of last year’s Super League brouhaha that UEFA snuck in the announcement regarding their own version of a pseudo-Super League, expanding the Champions League from 32 to 36 teams, getting rid of the group stages and guaranteeing 4 extra games, adding an extra knockout round, and ensuring a safety net for traditional big teams to still participate even if they have an off season domestically. (Just don’t call it a Super League!)

That format has now been amended slightly, but is still set to go ahead starting in 2024-25, as confirmed by UEFA today.

The amendments over the past year include the reduction of the number of guaranteed games from 10 to 8 (though still more than the current 6), and a slight change in the qualifying safety net that is unlikely to drastically change its function. Just don’t call it a Super League!

So, starting in 2024, the Champions League (née European Cup) will run without at least one group stage for the first time since 1991, with all 36 teams dumped into one massive league, and playing 8 total games (4 home, 4 away). The specific matchups will be decided by a UEFA computer running a “Swiss model” for the draw, which will likely split the 36 teams into pots based on rankings or coefficients, and then make the draws from there based on which pots play which other pots on which day. (An example of how that works can be seen in the 2019-20 CONCACAF Nations League qualifying that featured 34 teams in a league format playing just 4 games each.)

Once the 8 games have been played (which does mean two extra European midweeks already), the top 8 teams will qualify directly to the Round of 16, while the next 16 (i.e. 9th-24th) will play an extra two-legged knockout round. So unless you finish in the bottom third of the 36-team league (essentially the equivalent of finishing bottom of your group before) you are guaranteed at least 10 games now.

If all that sounds like a mechanism to ensure a) more matches and b) that big teams can reach the knockout rounds, that’s because it is. Just don’t call it a Super League.

And speaking of big teams and safety nets, while the extra spots in the competition proper (i.e. group or now league stage) are no longer awarded based on historic coefficients and tradition, the effect is pretty much the same still. Only one (1) of the four extra spots in the 36-team league will be going to a team coming through the qualifiers (a total of 5 instead of the previous 4 via the “Champions Path”), the other three (3) will be awarded based on league coefficients and rankings.

So, whereas before only England, Spain, Italy, and Germany had 3 guaranteed spots in the group league stage (4 in fact), the fifth-ranked association will now have 3 as well (so France). And then the other two spots will be “will go to the associations with the best collective performance by their clubs in the previous season” — in the current case would be England (so top-five would be guaranteed) and Netherlands (top-two would be guaranteed).

Just don’t call it a Super League.

I mean, we shouldn’t complain. This is aimed to benefit teams like Chelsea. (There are similar changes to the formats of the Europa League and the Europa Conference League, but hopefully we never have to step foot in those things anytime soon.)

Thanks, UEFA!

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