This is the last season before drastic changes to the Champions League take effect

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After four rounds of matches in the 2023/24 season, the group stage of the Champions League is drawing to a close.

Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester City have already booked their places in the knockout rounds and look set to top their groups in the season’s final four-team group stage. After this year’s tournament there will be some big changes to the structure of the Champions League, with the current system replaced by a single league table with all 36 teams competing.

It’s a big change for Europe’s number one club football competition. Below is a look at how these changes will play out in 2024/25.

How the Champions League currently works

On Thursday 31 August 2023, UEFA held the annual UEFA Champions League Group Stage draw. The 32 qualifying teams were divided into eight groups of four teams each.

Before the competition’s winter break, each team will play their group opponents twice, once at home and once away. The top two teams of each group advance to the round of 16; the third place teams will go to the Europa League. The eight teams that finish at the bottom of their groups will be eliminated from European competition for the season.

How many teams are in the new Champions League format?

However, this is about to change. The new format for the UEFA Champions League features four more teams, bringing the total to 36, all in a single league.

Within this league, the teams will be divided into four pots of nine. Pot one will feature the reigning Champions League winners, along with the eight clubs with the best odds.

How will the new format work in the Champions League?

During the first round of the 2024/25 competition, eight matches will be played for each club; four at home and four away.

The group stage will end at the end of January, instead of December. At the end of eight rounds, the top eight teams will qualify directly to the round of 16. Teams from 9th to 24th place will play in a two-match qualifying round. The remaining teams will be eliminated.

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From the round of 16 onwards the competition will continue in the same format as in previous years, with two-match knockouts leading to a one-match final.

Why is it called the Swiss model?

The name, surprisingly, comes from chess. In a Swiss system chess tournament, players are ranked on a league table, despite not playing against every other competitor. The same thing is expected to happen in the Champions League.

In the new-look Champions League, teams will play two matches – one at home and one away – against opponents from each of the four pots. This ensures that, while not all of them will play each other, they will have had a roughly even set of eight games against teams of varying quality.

From 2024/25, the continent’s top teams will be able to meet in the group stage of the Champions League.

 

How will the teams be placed on the fixture list?

In the 2024/25 season, teams will play group stage matches against opponents from the same pot as them. This means we could see Bayern Munich and Manchester City play each other in the group stage, a prospect that is unlikely in the current format.

Each team in the Champions League group stage will face two teams from Pot 1, two from Pot 2, two from Pot 3 and two from Pot 4.

Why has UEFA changed the format?

The new format, according to UEFA, is “designed to ensure the positive future of European football at every level and to meet the evolving needs of all its stakeholders”.

The 2024/25 Champions League Final will be held at the Allianz Arena in Munich on 31 May 2025.

These radical changes are not limited to the Champions League. Both the Europa League and the Conference League will also switch to the Swiss Model in 2024.

Their capacity will increase from 32 to 36, just like in the Champions League. There will be eight group stage matches in the Europa League, but only six in the Conference League.

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