The new format for the UEFA Champions League has been approved after a vote by the UEFA Executive Committee, as the tournament will expand from 32 teams to a 36-team competition from the 2024 season until at least 2033.
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This was expected to happen at UEFA’s ExCo meeting, which was always scheduled for Apr. 19 in Switzerland, but given the events of the last 24 hours the changes have taken on a whole new meaning.
With everything going on with the newly-announced European Super League and 12 European giants saying they will walk away from the Champions League, a huge war has now erupted with UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin saying: “This idea is a spit in the face of all football lovers. We will not allow them to take it away from us.”
In the meantime, the Champions League will now move to the so-called Swiss model as 36 teams will now play 10 group games each against opponents of varying strength. From that group stage, the top eight teams will qualify automatically for the last 16 and the next 16 will play a knockout round to determine the eight teams who will reach the last 16.
Another change is that of the four new teams in the expanded format, each season two of those teams will be sides who didn’t qualify for the UCL through their domestic league standings but have the highest UEFA co-efficient, which is based on their past performances in the competition.
UEFA have been pressured by giant European clubs for years to expand the Champions League format and have more group games, and 24 hours before they announced that will be the case, those same giants announced a breakaway league of their own.
Super League puts UCL future in focus
12 clubs (AC Milan, Arsenal, Barcelona, Chelsea, Juventus, Inter Milan, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur) have set up their own Super League which plans to replace their participation in the Champions League.
Three other clubs are expected to sign up, while five clubs each season can qualify for the new midweek tournament.
However, statements from individual domestic leagues, UEFA and FIFA have slammed the plans and the legality of those clubs being able to breakaway and form this league is highly dubious.
Many believe that the sole purpose of clubs breaking away to form this Super League is purely to force UEFA to make more concessions for how they want the Champions League to be structured in the future.
With more teams qualifying and more group games each season, UEFA has listened and sanctioned those big changes, as the group stage will now expand from 32 teams to 36 and there will be more big games in the group stage.
But that doesn’t seem to be enough for the European giants.
This bitter battle is set to go on in courtrooms across Europe as the elite clubs aim to push UEFA out.