UEFA approves eight-game group stage for Champions League, best-performing nations to be rewarded

By Sports Desk May 10, 2022

UEFA has approved changes to the Champions League format from the 2024-25 season, including an increase to eight group-stage matches.

European football's governing body had already announced in April that the competition would expand from 32 teams to 36 in two seasons' time.

And following talks in Vienna on Tuesday, the UEFA Executive Committee confirmed the number of rounds in the group stage will increase from six to eight.

All group and knockout-stage games up until the final will continue to be staged on midweek days, as it currently the case.

Two of the four additional places in the expanded format will be awarded on the basis of the highest-performing countries from the past season across UEFA club competitions.

If that had been the case this season, an additional team from the Premier League and Eredivisie would have qualified for next season's tournament.

It had previously been reported that those two places would go to clubs on the basis of their historic performance in European competition, but that is no longer the case.

Of the other two spots, an extra team will qualify from the fifth-ranked country in Europe, while another will go to one of the domestic champions who do not qualify automatically.

Commenting on the changes, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, said: "UEFA has clearly shown today that we are fully committed to respecting the fundamental values of sport and to defending the key principle of open competitions, with qualification based on sporting merit, fully in line with the values and solidarity-based European sports model.

"Today's decisions conclude an extensive consultation process during which we listened to the ideas of fans, players, coaches, national associations, clubs and leagues to name but a few, with the aim to find the best solution for the development and success of European football, both domestically and on the international club stage."

Under the new format, the initial phase will contain a single league consisting of all 36 teams, with each side playing four home games and four away games against eight different opponents.

The top eight sides in the league will qualify automatically for the knockout stage, while the teams finishing in ninth to 24th place will compete in a two-legged play-off to secure their path to the last 16.

Ceferin added: "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.
 
"I am really pleased that it was a unanimous decision of the UEFA Executive Committee, with the European Club Association, European Leagues and National Associations all agreeing with the proposal made. Another proof that European football is more united than ever.

"Qualification will thus remain purely based on sporting performance and the dream to participate will remain for all clubs."

Similar format changes will also be applied to the Europa League and Europa Conference League, with both also including 36 teams in the initial league phase.

Related items

  • Harbour View FC win 2022 Jamaica Premier League title 6-5 on penalties over Dunbeholden Harbour View FC win 2022 Jamaica Premier League title 6-5 on penalties over Dunbeholden

    Harbour View FC claimed their fifth Premier League title 6-5 on penalties over first-time finalists Dunbeholden in the 2022 Jamaica Premier League final at Sabina Park on Sunday.

  • Trincao returns to Barcelona as Wolves opt against triggering option Trincao returns to Barcelona as Wolves opt against triggering option

    Francisco Trincao has returned to Barcelona after Wolves opted against triggering their purchase option.

    The 22-year-old winger joined Wolves on loan last July, reportedly paying £5.1million (€5.9m) to borrow him for the season.

    As part of the deal, Wolves secured an option to buy the Portugal international for £25million (€29m) at the end of the loan, but that rarely looked a realistic outcome.

    Trincao featured 28 times for Wolves in the Premier League, though only 16 of those appearances were as a starter, and he had a hand in just four goals.

    Despite Wolves letting Trincao return to Barcelona, they will – according to a report published on Sunday by the West Midlands-based Express and Star – receive 20 per cent of his next transfer fee.

    He heads back to Barca with his future at Camp Nou unclear, as the club are keen to offload deadwood amid something of a financial crisis.

    Barca reportedly spent €31million in January 2020 to bring Trincao to the club from Sporting Braga, but his impact has been largely minimal.

  • Africa Cup of Nations moved from 2023 to January 2024 Africa Cup of Nations moved from 2023 to January 2024

    The next edition of the Africa Cup of Nations will take place in January and February 2024, rather than between June and July 2023, according to CAF president Patrice Motsepe.

    Africa's premier international tournament was due to be held in Ivory Coast during the European off-season next year, but the threat of heavy flooding in the country at that time of year means it will again take place midway through the club campaign.  

    Speaking in the Moroccan capital Rabat, where a meeting of the CAF Executive Committee was taking place, Motsepe said: "We cannot take the risk.

    "January is not the ideal time because of the European clubs, but it is the only choice we have."

    In 2017 CAF announced its intention to play the tournament at the end of the European club season.

    However, this year's edition, won by Senegal in February, was twice rescheduled after being slated to start in both June 2021 and June 2022, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and adverse weather conditions in Cameroon.

    The move is unlikely to be popular with several big-name club coaches, with Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp one high-profile critic of the decision to play the most recent tournament at the height of the European season.

    CAF Secretary-General Veron Mosengo-Omba, however, insisted the contrasting weather conditions across the continent meant a permanent switch to a January-February tournament was not on the cards.

    CAF also announced the creation of an African Super League on Sunday, with the first edition of the 24-team tournament, which will run alongside the African Champions League, slated to begin in August 2023. 

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.