new champions league format

The New Champions League Format: Good or Bad for Football?

The New Champions League Format takes effect from the 2021/22 Champions League knockout phase. Football fans from around the world are looking forward to seeing how the Champions League would fare with its new rule. So, we will deliberate if the decision is good or bad for football generally.

However, before going further, it is important to remind ourselves of the new Champions League rule.

Breakdown of The New Champions League Format and Rule

The new Champions League format may look complicated for many football fans, but it is quite easy to understand. In order to make it even easier to comprehend, we’ll break it down below and explain it sequentially.

Away Goals Rule

The away goals rule has always been a subject for debate before now. The rule looks unfair and very much illogical.

But what’s the principle behind the away goals rule?

Put simply, when two teams are level on Aggregate over a two-legged tie, the team with the higher away goal wins the tie. (It doesn’t matter if the tie winner is well beaten at home.)

However, things have changed now. The away goals rules are now abolished from UEFA Competitions. What does this mean now?

When two teams are level on aggregate after two-legged matches, the match goes into extra time and if need be penalities.

Away goals will never again decide who qualifies or not – only the aggregate score (or penalty shootout) would decide the winner.

This away goals rule takes effect from the current 2021/22 Champions league season.

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36 Teams League Format

Usually, 32 teams compete for the Champions League – 4 teams in 8 different groups. The new Champions League rule is that 36 teams will now compete in the competition.

Instead of playing 3 opponents twice (home and away) in the group stage, a team will now face 10 different opponents.

5 of these matches would be at home while the other 5 would be played away.

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How The Additional 4 Teams Will Join The Competition in The New Format

What this new Champions League format means is that 4 more teams would join the competition. How then will the 4 teams be selected?

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Slot 1 of 4

“Slot one: One of the additional places will go to the club ranked third in the championship of the association in fifth position in the UEFA national association ranking.”


What do UEFA’s words mean? To start with, the “UEFA national association ranking” simply means country coefficients ranking as seen in the screenshot below.

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UEFA national association ranking 2021/22 season

France is ranked 5th. Actually, France has been 5th in the last 5 years.

Whatever the case, the point here is that the Champions League slot 1 out of 4 for the new champion League format will be given to the team that finishes 3rd in Ligue 1 in this instance since Frace is ranked 5th.

It could be any other league, depending on the country ranked 5th in the country coefficients for the season of review.

Ideally, countries ranked 5th in the coefficients have only 2 automatic slots to the UEFA Champions League.

However, with the new Champions League format, 3 teams from the country can now have 3 automatic slots and the 4th placed team would enter the 3rd qualifying round.

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Slot 2 of 4

“Slot two: Another will be awarded to a domestic champion by extending from four to five the number of clubs qualifying via the so-called ‘Champions Path’.”


The “Champion’s path” are all League Champions who do not directly qualify to the UEFA Champions League Group stages.

Ideally, there are 4 teams that qualify for the Champions League from the “Champions Path”, now there will be 5 teams.

Slot 3 & 4

Slots 3 and 4 are awarded to two teams with the highest Club coefficients that did not qualify Automatically to the Champions League group stages.

UEFA Clubs Coefficients ranking

However, the two teams must have qualified for the Qualifying round, Europa League or the Europa Conference League.

8 Teams Qualify Automatically to RO16

After teams have played their preliminary 10 matches in the Champions League, only 8 Clubs will qualify automatically to the Round of 16.

16 Teams Fight For 8 Places Left in The R016

Teams placed from 9th to 24th on the UEFA Champions League Table would then play a two-legged playoff match. 8 winning teams would then join the already-qualified 8 teams in the Round of 16 matches.

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12 Teams Are Eliminated in The First Phase

Clubs from 25th to 36th on the table would be automatically eliminated out of the competition. Unfortunately, these teams would not qualify for the Europa League or Europa Conference League.

When The New Champions League Format Would Take Effect

This new Champions League Rule or format would take effect after the 2023/24 UEFA Champions League season.

However, the away goals rule has already taken effect starting from the 2021/22 Champions League season.

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Is the New Champions League Format a Good or A Bad Move for Football?

Well, since the announcement of this new Champions League Format, there have been a lot of opinions and reviews from football fans and experts. Let’s weigh both sides of the coin.

The Positive Angle

  • More Matches for fans to watch.
  • More fun and excitement. No two teams would have to meet 3 times in the group stages. Tough matches could be set in right from the beginning of the competition.
  • Aways goals rule never really made logical sense in football. It’s not a crime to concede a goal at home. What matters most is the Aggregate score.

The Downside

  • More fixture congestion. Schedule congestion when combined with domestic leagues and international breaks.
  • Players are not Machines. With the new Champions League format, Footballers would have to play more matches in a season. Important players need more time to recover as they are no robots.
  • Technically, on a general scale, watching more UEFA Champions League matches in a season, although exciting, comes at a personal cost. More money will be spent on streaming or watching live in the stadium.

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Final Words on The New Champions League Format

As highlighted above, there are positives and negatives to the new Champions League format. However, when you look at it holistically, there are two views: from the fans’ perspective and the players’ perspective.

From the fans’ perspective, the new Champions League format is more of a blessing. More exciting for fans. However, from the players’ angle, it’s not so much good news that they have to play more matches. Although, the away goals rule should be in their favor.

Finally, there is one other phase of the entire process – technically, the new Champions League format means more money for UEFA.

In the end, the new Champions League format is both good news and a bad one depending on which angle you’re looking at it from.

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