New Champions League Format Explained: How does UCL work?
The UEFA announced a new Champions League format. Here is everything you need to know about the expanded 2024-25 UCL format and how many teams qualify.
Many soccer fans around the world have a lot of lingering questions about Europe’s upcoming Champions League rule changes for 2024-25. First off, there still won’t be a Super League. Second, all the big clubs will still be in the Champions League competition, only now they are even more likely to qualify for it.
There is much more to know, of course, and here on Betway Insider we will attempt to answer many frequently asked questions about the rule change. Those questions include: What is the new Champions League format? Is there a Champions League bracket? How do teams qualify for the new Champions League? How many teams will qualify for the Champions League in 2024-25? Just how many Champions League rules and formalities will change, and what else comes with the new UCL format?
Don’t worry, we have you covered.
When does the 2024-25 Champions League start?
The 2024-25 UEFA Champions League opens with the First Qualifying Round, set to start on July 9, 2024. Matchday 1 of the new “League Phase” -- one of a few changes to the Champions League format -- will begin on Sept. 17, 2024.
When is the 2024-25 Champions League final?
The 2024-25 UEFA Champions League final is set for May 31, 2025, at Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. However, the path to getting there is slightly different than in past years, which has left many fans wondering this: How will the new Champions League format be structured?New Champions League 2024-25 Format Explained
Let’s go through the changes to the 2024-25 UEFA Champions League phase by phase. Changes occur for almost all parts of the competition, starting with qualification.
2024-25 Champions League Qualification
The 2024-25 Champions League expansion will see 36 teams qualify for the “League Phase” (the new Group Stage) of the competition. That number is up from 32 in past years.
The Champions League qualifying schedule and format will generally appear the same -- three preliminary qualifying rounds will precede a final playoff round for spots in the League Phase. Clubs will still be split up into both the Champions Path and League Path, depending on how they finished in their respective leagues as well as each given country’s UEFA coefficient.
2024-25 Champions League Group Stage
Here is where fans will see the biggest change. As opposed to a 32-team group stage with four teams per group (and the top two in each group advancing), the Champions League will expand to a 36-team Swiss-style tournament with a “League Phase”
All teams will be placed in the same 36-team group, and each team will play eight group games -- up from six in previous seasons. There will still be a draw and, based on UEFA coefficients, clubs will be split into nine-team divisions with each team facing the other eight teams in its division.
The top eight teams overall will automatically advance to the next round. Meanwhile, the teams that finish ninth through 24th will engage in a two-legged playoff to qualify for the Round of 16.
Until now, third-place “Group Stage” Champions League finishers would enter the Europa League, but that will not be the case in 2024-25. All UCL teams that fail to qualify for the Round of 16 will be not be placed into another Europe-wide league.
2024-25 Champions League Round of 16 Knockout Stage
From the Round of 16 forward, the UEFA Champions League format will remain the same as in past years. There were originally rumors that UEFA might look to a “Final Four” style semifinals/finals in a single city weekend tournament, but those plans never came to fruition.
Here is the Champions League knockout stage schedule for 2024-25.
2024-25 Champions League Final
The 2024-25 Champion League Final will be held at Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, on May 31, 2025. Allianz Arena is the home to Bayern Munich, which means there could be hometown finalist or champion. Imagine Bayern Munich avenging its 2012 Champions League final loss to Chelsea in its own backyard – perhaps even on penalties. The excitement level would be off the charts.
Related: The Champions League final is a pinnacle moment that showcases the best of European football and carries immense significance for the participating teams and players. Check out our rankings of the 10 greatest finals in Champions League history.
How many more teams qualify for the 2024-25 Champions League and from which countries?
Four more teams will qualify for the 2024-25 Champions League than in the past, as the total field expands to 36 clubs.
Where do those extra spots come from? One will be an automatic berth for the third-place team in UEFA’s fifth-ranked nation. As a result, a team such as Marseille, which missed finishing third in Ligue 1 last year, would automatically qualify for the Champions League rather than having to go through playoffs. Another additional team would be drawn from the “Champions” qualifying path.
The other two teams will come from the two countries with the highest UEFA coefficient in the previous season. During the 2022-23 season, England and Italy had the top coefficients, meaning the fifth-placed clubs from both nations (Liverpool and Atalanta) would have qualified under the new format.
Why is this change happening?
One doesn’t want to be too cynical here, but it’s clear that by expanding the number of games in the group stages, UEFA can expect a significant revenue increase. UEFA will spin this aspect of the format as providing more money to all the teams -- which is true -- but the bigger clubs will always steal a bigger slice of the broadcast pie.
What happened to the places based on historical performance?
Originally, the plan was for the final two Champions League spots to be reserved for the two clubs that had the highest club UEFA coefficients among those outside of the Champions League. This sort of retroactive gatekeeping would ensure that even if a club like Real Madrid or Bayern Munich had an utterly disastrous season, it would still back into the UCL.
Here’s how The Athletic put it: “Had the historical coefficient proposals gone through, it would have essentially made the Champions League a closed shop — something the Super League would have been for Juventus, Real Madrid, and Barcelona among others.”
What changes will happen with the Europa League and Europa Conference League?
The UEFA Europa League and the Europa Conference League will also both increase from 32 to 36 teams. While the Europa League will increase to eight games for its League phase, the Conference League will remain at six games. Additionally, for the round of 32, no teams will be dropping down from other UEFA competitions.
Current UEFA Champions League teams that are perennial regulars in the competition will be just fine. The expansion will give a few new teams a chance to be part of the action. However, as a result of these additional games, expect increased debate over whether players are being forced to play too many matches in too short a time frame.
Bet on Champions League Odds at Betway
Find Champions League odds on the Betway sportsbook. You’ll find all the latest money lines, over/under, st half results, same game parlays, soccer live betting and many more! All your Champions League betting needs will be covered in our online sportsbook.
Visit Betway’s Champions League picks page for picks and predictions throughout the tournament.