How many more teams qualify for 2024/25 Champions League and from which countries?
The Premier League and France’s Ligue 1 are likely to be amongst the beneficiaries when the Champions League changes format in 2024.
The UEFA Champions League has become the pinnacle of European – and indeed world – club soccer and guess what? You’re going to get plenty more of it before too long. Despite the competition’s success, UEFA decided to introduce a format from the 2024-25 season onwards, which may be to the liking of Premier League, Ligue 1 and even chess fans. If you’re confused, bear with me.
How many clubs will play in the ‘new’ Champions League? How many more games will be played?
The revamp will see 36 teams take part in the competition instead of the current 32. That basically means the competition will make more money from a greater number of games (189, currently 125), which will see the continent’s ‘top’ teams play each other more often, including in the group stage.
New Champions League group stage
The group stage is where the main difference lies compared to current format and is where chess comes in. Instead of teams being drawn into eight groups of four and playing six group games, they will instead take part in eight matches and go into one giant table (that’s going to be a lot of scrolling on your results app of choice), with goal difference the first tie-breaker for teams finishing level on points.
The competition will deploy the ‘Swiss model’, commonly used in chess tournaments, which means not every team in the ‘league’ will play each other (more on fixtures in a moment).
Who will four extra group stages places go to?
So, we’ve established that there will be four extra teams in the (single) group stage. But which ones?
Ligue 1 in pole position
The first extra spot will go to the team that finished third in the fifth-ranked country in UEFA’s association coefficient (the fifth ‘best’ league in Europe, in simple terms). That league has been France’s Ligue 1 for as long as anyone can remember.
If the changes were to take place for next season rather than the following one, then Marseille would directly join Paris Saint-Germain and Lens in the group stage rather than starting at the third qualifying round, which is the case at the moment.
That qualifying spot will drop down to the fourth-placed spot in Ligue 1, which is currently only good enough for a Europa League group stage place.
One extra ‘champion’ in the Champions League
One extra team will qualify for the group stage from the champions’ qualifying path, which is generally for the champions from leagues not ranked in the top 10 in the association coefficient. Five ‘champion’ clubs will qualify from this path instead of the current four.
Premier League dominance keeps paying off
The remaining two places will go to teams from the two countries that have the highest coefficient score during the previous season. At the time of writing, England and Italy are the top two for 2022-23, which would see the highest-placed teams in the Premier League and Serie A that haven’t already qualified earn a spot in next season’s Champions League (were the changes to come into effect for then).
Given that England has finished either first or second in four of the last five seasons, it seems likely they will have a fifth representative in the 2024-25 Champions League. Spain, Germany and even the Netherlands have been in the top two, which would’ve given them an extra spot.
Again, were the current season to finish now, Liverpool (fifth in the Premier League) and Atalanta (fifth in Serie A) would go directly into the group stages of the next edition.
How will Champions League group stage fixtures work?
As mentioned, not every team in the group will play against each other, which would take an eternity. Instead, the 36 clubs will be divided into four pots of nine, which is likely to be based on UEFA’s five-year club coefficient (basically how each club has performed in European competition in the last five years).
Each team will be drawn to face two teams group each pot, including their own, which should ensure their eight group-stage matches are of similar difficulty on the whole. As is the case now, two teams from the same country will not be drawn against other.
Which teams qualify for the knockout stages?
The top eight teams in the group/league go through to the knockout stages, with the 16 teams who finish between ninth and 24th taking part in a two-legged playoff to join them. The playoff winners will be unseeded in the next round, with the competition reverting back to its ‘traditional’ format thereafter.