The new plans for Europe’s elite competition, which are set to come into effect in 2024, have been unveiled amid the talk of a rival Super League.
UEFA has given the green light for a 36-team Champions League reform which will include a single league format to replace the group stage.
European football’s main governing body announced changes to the competition on Monday amid reports of a rival Super League formation which could see 12 of the biggest clubs on the continent breakaway.
The changes are slated to come into effect in 2024, with fixtures set to be played on Thursdays instead of Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and a play-off round added to the first stage.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has outlined the main reasons behind the reform in an official statement, which reads: “This new format supports the status and future of the domestic game throughout Europe as well. It retains the principle that domestic performance should be the key to qualification and reconfirms the principles of solidarity right through the game and of open competition.
“This evolved format will still keep alive the dream of any team in Europe to participate in the UEFA Champions League thanks to results obtained on the pitch and it will enable long-term viability, prosperity, and growth for everyone in European football, not just a tiny, self-selected cartel.
“Football is a social and cultural treasure, enriched with values, traditions and emotions shared across our continent. As the governing body and responsible stewards of the European game, it is UEFA’s role to safeguard this legacy while leading the positive future development of football in Europe for national associations, leagues, clubs, players, and fans at every level. This is why we had an extensive consultation process over the last two years which led to the unanimous backing of our proposal and we are convinced that these reforms achieve those objectives.”
The traditional group stage concept which has seen four teams compete in eight pools with the top two qualifyings for the last 16 will be scrapped in favour of a single league including 36 teams.
All of the fixtures will be drawn out of a pot going forward, with seeding driven by the UEFA coefficient, and the Europa League and Conference League will follow the same format.
Each team will play a total of 10 games home and away, with the top eight automatically qualifying for the last 16 and those finishing between ninth and 24th to compete in two-legged play-offs to decide who else makes the knockout stage.
The teams that finish lower than 24th will exit European competition completely, and the last 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final will all continue with their original format.
The calendar has yet to be worked out to accommodate four additional matches but they will be played between September and January, while France has been handed a fifth qualifying spot from Ligue 1.