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UEFA announce new Champions League format

The format will begin in the 2018-19 season

Villarreal v Monaco: UEFA Champions League Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

Talks have been held over the last few months by UEFA Executives involving the current and future Champions League format. After the decisions were made, the European Federation has announced a new format for the biggest club competition in football:

  • Under the format, the top four leagues (based on coefficient) will each have four teams automatically qualify for the group stages, totaling 16, which is half of the 32 group stage spots.

This is the biggest change announced. The top three associations currently get three teams guaranteed in the group stages, and the fourth association, two. With these changes, the top four leagues, currently La Liga, the Premier League, the Bundesliga, and Serie A, will go from having 11 fully guaranteed spots to 16.

  • The UEFA Europa League champions will also automatically qualify for the group stages (if they didn’t already through league performance). Previously there was a possibility of them being placed in the final playoff round if the Champions League title holder didn’t qualify through their league.
  • A new system for the club coefficients: clubs will be judged on their own records (deletion of the country share for individual club coefficient unless that coefficient is lower than 20% of the association's coefficient).
  • Historical success in the competition will also be acknowledged in coefficient calculation (points for previous European titles with a weighted system for UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League titles)

FC Basel's President gave an interview today detailing the changes a bit more. Currently there are guaranteed places in the group stage for the top 12 associations based on coefficient. That will change to the Top10 two seasons from now, with associations 11-15 getting places in the final playoff round. He also mentioned that a 24-team group stage was discussed, but ultimately scrapped.

These changes come to perhaps slow down the talks of an “European Super League”. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, former Bayern Munich official and chairman of the European Club Association, was the biggest instigator of those discussions.

A lot of clubs outside of England have voiced whether openly or discreetly that a Super League is what they wanted. People connected with clubs such as AC Milan, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and several Premier League clubs have all discussed the idea of leaving UEFA for monetary purposes.

There has been speculation that the new Champions League format allowing more teams from the higher-ranked associations was to help placate the big clubs from across Europe. UEFA could not risk their big names leaving to form a Super League, and the organization hopes these changes will help the clubs settle down.

The format change will take effect starting in the 2018-19 season for an initial three-year period. The change won't have any repercussions for Barcelona, who will continue to be part of a top-ranked association and are always likely to qualify for the group stages automatically. Still, this is a controversial decision, one that will certainly cause big debate.