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Champions League, Europa League & Europa Conference League format changes explained

The Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League are changing again for the 2024/25 season.

We look at the latest overhaul of UEFA's three flagship club tournaments and the implications for the Premier League clubs involved in the trio of competitions.

Out with the group, in with the league

The Champions League will have a brand-new look in 2024/25 with a sizeable overhaul which naturally has split opinions.

The dates are pretty much the same - the competition will run from the first round of qualifying in July to the final in May. And there will still be four rounds of qualifying to whittle the numbers down for the main stage.

On top of that, the final will as ever be staged at one of the continent's premier venues, the Allianz Arena in Munich on 31st May, 2025.

The big difference comes with the replacement of the 32-team group stage with a 36-team league stage, a single league in which every team plays eight matches, four at home and four away.

To determine a team's eight different opponents, the 36 clubs will be divided into four pots of nine and clubs will be drawn against two teams from each of the pots, trying to avoid matches between teams from the same country.

Matchday one is in September, matchdays seven and eight in January.

The top eight teams from the league go straight into the round of 16 in March. They are joined by eight play-off winners, where the teams which finished between 9th and 16th will be seeded in the knockout phase play-off draw to face a team placed 17th to 24th.

As far as English interest goes, they should be guaranteed four teams as the five top-ranked associations based on UEFA's coefficients will get four Champions League places each. Currently England are top of UEFA's coefficients table.

All four of those clubs would go straight into the new league phase and there is also a good chance England will get a fifth side directly into the league stage, with UEFA offering two more places to the associations with the best collective performance by their clubs in the previous season (i.e. 2023/24).

There could be a sixth and seventh as well if English teams win either of the current Champions League and Europa League and they haven't qualified via their league position.

The obvious consequence of the expansion is more matches being played - 69 across the tournament as a whole compared to this season - which means more revenue but greater workloads with games in January when several leagues, Germany, for example, are on their mid-season break.

Europa League gets champions treatment

UEFA's brainchild also has a knock-on effect for both the Europa League and Conference League, each getting a similar makeover.

The Europa League, which culminates in the final in Bilbao on 21st May, 2025, will also go from the late summer qualifying rounds into a new 36-team league.

Just as with the Champions League, based on coefficients the teams will be drawn into four pots and each team will be drawn to play two teams from each of the pots.

The top eight from the overall table go straight into the round of 16, the teams who finish 9th to 24th will go into a home-and-away play-off round in January to determine the other eight clubs.

The Premier League will have two teams in the Europa League, the team which finishes fifth in the league this season and the FA Cup winners.

If, like last season, a team from the top four also wins the FA Cup, the second spot will go to the next-placed side in the division. which was how Brighton made it into to the tournament this season.

The Premier League had three teams this term because West Ham qualified as winners of the 2022/23 Conference League and that carrot will still be on offer to teams in that competition.

Conference League gets a name change

The Europa Conference League hasn't just undergone a structural tweak, it has also been renamed, and will henceforth be known as the UEFA Conference League. The final will be in Wroclaw, Poland in May 2025.

It mirrors changes in the other two competitions with the 36-team league phase replacing the 32-team group stage, the difference being there are only six matches - against six different opponents - rather than eight in that part of the tournament.

And the Premier League, come what may, will only have one team in the UEFA Conference League, notionally the EFL Cup winners, but quite possibly the next-best league finisher, as was the case with Aston Villa last season.


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