How many more teams qualify for the 2024/25 Champions League and from which countries?
The Premier League, LaLiga and Ligue 1 are likely to be among 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 the 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...for now
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) at the end of the 2022-23 season. That league has been France’s Ligue 1 for as long as anyone can remember, although that could change in future editions of the “new” Champions League, with the French top flight coming under serious pressure from the Eredivisie, the top division in the Netherlands.
If the changes had taken place in time for this season rather than next, then Marseille would have directly joined Paris Saint-Germain and Lens in the group stage rather than starting at the third qualifying round.
That qualifying spot would have dropped down to the fourth-placed team in Ligue 1 (Rennes last season), which was only good enough for a Europa League group stage place this year.
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 Spain are the top two in 2023-34, which would see the highest-placed teams in the Premier League and LaLiga that haven’t already qualified earn a spot in next season’s Champions League. Unless something unusual happens, that would be the fifth-placed teams in both leagues.
Obviously, that could still change this season, with Italy’s Serie A and the German Bundesliga not far behind the Spanish top flight in the current ranking. 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.
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 clubs from 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 cannot 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.