The executive committee of Uefa will meet on Tuesday to consider ideas for the most major reforms to the Champions League in a generation.
The European Club Association and the Uefa Club Competitions Committee unanimously supported Champions League modifications in April, just days before the failed European Super League scheme was hatched.
It disclosed intentions to overhaul the framework of Europe’s premier club competition beginning in 2024, giving the championship its first fresh look since the 2003/04 season. The ideas have not received the same amount of criticism as the Super League plans, but they have been criticized by key fan organizations, notably the Football Supporters’ Association [FSA].
“We are united in our opposition to suggestions to alter the Champions League that are a backdoor effort to return to the discredited notion of a European Super League,” the FSA’s Premier League Network stated in a statement.
But what are the planned modifications, and what may the Champions League look like in 2024 if the ideas are approved? Everything you need to know is right here.
How will the new Champions League seem?
The Champions League has been a 32-team tournament since 2003, with a single group stage followed by a knockout round. The 32 teams, seeded based on league position and Uefa coefficient, have been divided into eight groups of four, with the top two clubs advancing to the last-16 following six rounds of round-robin matches including both home and away matches. Following that, there were three two-leg rounds, the last-16, quarter-finals, and semi-finals, with matches played both at home and away, before the final at a neutral location.
If the suggestions are approved, the group stage will look quite different.
The primary suggested alterations are four new teams to bring the total number of clubs to 36, and the usage of a single league structure. The league phase will produce an overall ranking – from first to 32nd – with three points for a victory and one point for a draw, as is customary. The top eight teams will progress to the last 16, with the other 16 teams placing ninth to 24th entering a two-leg play-off round, with a win earning passage to the last 16. Teams finishing 25th or below will be eliminated and will not be relegated to the Europa League.
How will the league format function?
The number of fixtures utilized in the league phase is still being debated. The Premier League and other big European leagues, which apparently desire eight, are poised to oppose Uefa’s request for ten matches, an increase of four from the current six.
A ‘Swiss-style’ seeding mechanism would be used to set fixtures. According to Uefa’s recommendations, ten matches would be played, each against a different club, five at home and five away. All of the outcomes would go towards the overall league ranking.
Will it affect the knockout round?
Aside from the play-off round, the knockout stage will be the same as the previous 16 stage. However, there will be speculations that Uefa would propose abolishing two-legged semi-finals in favor of a ‘final four’ format played over a week in one European city.
Will certain teams be able to qualify based on previous results?
The plan to reserve two of the additional four Champions League slots “to the two teams with the highest club coefficients that have not qualified automatically for the Champions League’s league stage” is perhaps the most contentious aspect of Uefa’s proposals.
Those clubs would still have to qualify for European involvement, either by their league rank or by winning a local cup tournament, but it opens the door to a safety net for the largest clubs, further deepening the inequities in European football.
For example, a team like Liverpool or Manchester City could still qualify for the Champions League if they placed seventh in the Premier League, the last available slot for the Europa Conference League, or by winning the FA Cup. They would do so since their club coefficients are among the top five in the Uefa rankings, which are based on performance over the previous five seasons.
However, even if Brighton won the FA Cup, they would not be eligible for the Champions League until they finished in the top four.
If the method was utilized this season, Manchester United (sixth in the Premier League) and Roma (sixth in Serie A) would qualify for the Champions League based on their current rankings of tenth and eleventh in the Uefa club coefficient table.
How will the remaining two Champions League slots be distributed?
According to Uefa, the additional two slots will be assigned based on the following criteria:
Slot one: One of the extra berths will be awarded to the club finishing third in the association championship and fifth in the Uefa national association ranking.
Another slot will be allocated to a domestic champion by increasing the number of teams qualifying through the ‘Champions Path’ from four to five.