Liverpool and Real Madrid are just a few weeks away from facing one of their toughest matches this season: the UEFA Champions League final.
32 teams started the competition but now only two remain as the Merseyside team take on La Liga giants in a bid to be crowned Europe’s number one side.
However, UEFA have recently announced that in the next two years, the European teams will have a much broader level of competition as four more teams are set to be added to Europe’s highest competition.
UEFA have recently approved changes that will see 36 clubs take part in the Champions League from 2024-25 onwards.
Under this new format, each team will be set to play eight games over 10 match weeks.
There had been a plan to award two Champions League places to individual clubs based on their past European performance but this has since been abandoned.
Two of these four new places will instead be awarded on the basis of their performance in Europe in the previous season.
The third place will go to the third-placed league team in the country standing fifth in their rankings. At the moment, this team joins in the third qualifying round rather than being granted an automatic qualification.
UEFA also confirmed that the fourth place would go to one country’s domestic champions. This means that the number of teams who qualify via the ‘Champions Path’ increases from four to five clubs.
The Champions Path is UEFA’s name for the qualification process for domestic champions who do not automatically go into the group stage.
UEFA also added that “similar format changes will also be applied to the Europa League (eight matches in the league stage) and Europa Conference League (six matches in the league stage) and both will also include 36 teams in the league phase.”
Here is all you need to know about the new proposed changes...
What has UEFA said?
The UEFA president, Aleksander Ceferin triumphantly said: “the dream to participate will remain for all clubs.
“UEFA has clearly shown today that we are fully committed to respecting the fundamental values of sport and to defending the key principles of open competitions, with qualification based on sporting merit, fully in line with the values and solidarity-based European sports model.
“We are convinced that the format chosen strikes the right balance and that it will improve the competitive balance and generate solid revenues that can be distributed to clubs, leagues, and into grassroots football across our continent while increasing the appeal and popularity of our club competitions.”
He added that the new format had been approved by UEFA’s executive along with the agreement of Europe’s league bodies and national associations.
Ceferin said: “Qualification will thus remain purely based on sporting performance and the dream to participate will remain for all clubs.”
How will the new format work?
At the moment, the Champions League first stage has all 32 teams divided into eight groups of four and each team plays each other in a home and away fixture.
With the new system, the initial phase will contain one single league table, including all teams.
Each club will then play eight league stage games against different opponents, with four home fixtures and four away.
The top eight will then go straight through to the knockout stage while those in ninth position to 24th will compete in a two-legged play-off to progress.
How many Premier League clubs will qualify?
It is likely that five English Premier League club will feature in the Champions League from 2024.
Had the new system been in place over the last five season, England would have gained an extra place in all but one of the campaigns.
In truly exceptional circumstances, up to seven English teams could potentially qualify in a single season via the refromed model - the Premier League’s top four, a fifth-placed team courtresy of the country coefficient, and also the winners of the Champions League and the Europa League - however these would all have to be different clubs.
What has the ECA said?
The European Club Association represents over 240 European clubs and has given its seal of approval to UEFA.
In a statement, it said that the changes: “mean that the new-look competitions will have the best start in life, resulting from exhaustive consultations between UEFA and ECA over a number of years that ensure the legitimate interests of all relevant stakeholders are respected - driven by collective rather than self-interest.”
“The new format also gives the opportunity for future growth of European football in a sustainable, responsible and inclusive way.”