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Women's Champions League: Format change & new competition announcement

There is plenty of excitement about the changes to the format of the men's Champions League from next season and UEFA have also confirmed that the women's competition will see some alterations in time for the 2025/26 campaign.

The "post-2025 sporting concept" will feature a restructuring of the current competition and the introduction of a secondary women's European club tournament.

Nadine Kessler, UEFA managing director of women's football, says the changes are being made to ensure the game does not "stand still" and that the measures will prove to be "another fundamental milestone for the professionalisation of European club football".

Evolution of the game

The development of the women's game has been one of the stories of the last decade, with the rise in investment translating into greater quality on the field and increased coverage and interest off it.

Growing demand has led to stadiums selling out at both club and international levels and the demand for women's football is more significant than ever.

The Women's Champions League was first held in 2001 and has gone through several iterations.

The most recent changes to the format came ahead of the 2021/22 season, in which a group stage was introduced involving 16 teams drawn across four pools, with the top two in each graduating to the knockout stage.

More teams and more opportunities

The tournament will change from the 2025/26 season, with the competition expanded from 16 to 18 teams, with their opponents determined by a draw from clubs ranked in three seeding pots based on club-coefficient ranking.

The 18 teams will comprise the previous season's champions and, as is also currently the case, the domestic champions of the three top-ranked nations.

They will be joined by the winners of the fourth, fifth and sixth-ranked leagues and the runners-up in the top two ranked national divisions.

Four more sides will come through the Champions qualifying path, while five more will come from the League qualifying path.

The latter has been extended to include two new teams - the runner-up of the association ranked 17th and the third-placed side from the national division ranked seventh in the coefficient.

Each team that makes it through will face two opponents from each pot, meaning that rather than playing against three sides home and away, they will take on six different opponents, playing half of their matches at home and the other half away.

The results will be collated in a table as part of a "more competitive and dynamic league stage ensuring every match counts", with the top four sides qualifying automatically for the quarter-finals.

The teams ranked fifth to 12th in the standings will compete in a two-legged knockout phase, with the winners going through to the last eight, while the sides who finished 13th to 18th will be eliminated.

Once the last eight draw is confirmed, the quarter-finals and semi-finals will be played over two legs before a one-off game in the final.

Secondary tournament adds another chance to grow

The changes bring the design of the Women's Champions League closer to that of the men's and UEFA will also launch a secondary competition, allowing more clubs to compete in Europe.

Thirteen sides who finished third in the domestic leagues ranked eighth to 13th and the runners-up in the associations ranked 18-24 will enter the new competition.

It will also act as a second chance for the teams eliminated in the second round of the Champions League, as well as those who fall in the opening round.

The tournament will be a straight knockout played over two legs, with the winners automatically qualifying for the second round of the Champions qualifying path for the following season's Women's Champions League.

UEFA say the decision to introduce a secondary competition is to "provide further incentive for investment at domestic level" and it looks like it will also grow the game in new areas and provide fresh opportunities.

The body's president, Aleksander Ceferin, believes the tournament is evidence of a "dedicated strategy, solid investment and a passion to ensure the game is open to everybody" and will allow more clubs and players to showcase their talent abroad.


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