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Champions League Format to Change Dramatically from Next Season – Full Review of Changes and Impact on “Fifth Spot”

CL format will change from next season [写真]=Getty Images

It is said that the format of the Champions League (CL) will change drastically from next season, but how much will it change?

The group stage of this season’s Champions League has come to an end. Of the five teams participating in Spain, four of them successfully passed the lead, with the exception of Sevilla, who were eliminated in last place. Additionally, three teams each from Germany and Italy advanced to the round of 16.

On the other hand, the English team seemed to be struggling. Manchester City and Arsenal, aiming for back-to-back titles, easily advanced to the top, but Newcastle and Manchester United unexpectedly finished in last place and were eliminated in the group stage. This is the first time since the 2012-13 season that only two English teams made it to the last 16. At that time, Manchester City and Chelsea were eliminated in the group stage, and Arsenal and Manchester United, who had advanced to the knockout stages, were also defeated in the last 16.

This is the first time in 11 years that only two English teams have made it to the final tournament, and this will have a major impact on next season’s “fifth spot”. Now, let’s review the changes to next season’s Champions League, which will see a fundamental change in format, and look ahead to the fate of the “fifth spot.”

[写真]=Getty Images

■From the group stage to the “Swiss method”

The number of teams qualifying for next season’s Champions League will increase from the current 32 to 36. Until this season, the group stage was played in a home and away round-robin format, with 32 teams divided into eight groups of four teams each. Each team played six games, and the top two teams from each group advanced to the top 16, with the final tournament starting in February of the new year.

However, starting next season, the concept of a “group stage” will disappear. The old group stage will be changed to the “league stage” (tentative name), and the 36 teams participating in the final round will not be divided into groups, and all 36 teams will belong to one league. Instead of the previous home and away round robin, they will play against each of the eight teams once. This is a so-called “Swiss style” league match.

The opponents for each team’s eight games will be decided by pot splitting. The 36 teams will be divided in advance into four seed pots according to their past performance. Let’s name them 1st to 4th pots. Each team will play a total of eight games against two teams from each pot. Matches will be arranged such as 2 matches against 1st place pot and 2 matches against 2nd place pot.

After each team has played eight games in the league stage, the top eight teams will advance to the Round of 16. The next 16 teams ranked 9th to 24th will play in a home and away playoff, with the eight winning teams advancing to the Round of 16. The remaining teams below 25th place will be eliminated, and no teams will advance to the Europa League.

Starting from the round of 16, the format will be the same as the traditional final tournament. The tournament will be played in a home and away format, with only the final match being a one-shot match. By the way, the venue for this season’s final will be Wembley Stadium in London. Next season’s final is scheduled to be held at the Allianz Arena in Munich.

■Event period

Previously, the group stage was held from September to December, but next season’s league stage will be held from September to the following January. As before, games will be held in midweek, but there will be one week called “Exclusive Week,” where only one tournament will be held that week. For example, during the Europa League exclusive week, there will be no Champions League or Conference League (formerly known as the Europa Conference League) matches, and only the Europa League will be played on Wednesday and Thursday. Naturally, the Champions League and Conference League will also have exclusive weeks.

■4 more teams

Marseille will not play in the CL this season due to their loss in the preliminary round

Now, what is attracting attention is the four additional spots for the Champions League main selection that will be added from next season. The first is awarded to the team that finishes third in the league that is fifth in the UEFA Association Rankings. This season, it will be France, so Marseille, who finished third in Ligue 1 last season, will be able to participate in the main draw rather than in the preliminary round.

The second additional slot is the national champion slot. The number of teams that advance to the finals from the “Champion’s Pass” qualifying round for domestic champions will increase from four to five. Looking at this season, for example, teams such as Greece’s AEK Athens and Israel’s Maccabi Haifa, who were eliminated in the “Champions Pass” playoffs, may have been able to participate.

The remaining two slots are the ones that are attracting the most attention. One slot will be given to each of the top two leagues that achieved the best results in the European Cup competitions of the previous year (this season in terms of next season’s competition). This is not limited to results in the Champions League, but also takes into account results in the Europa League and Europa Conference League.

Last season, England were first and Italy second. Last season, English team Manchester City won the Champions League, and West Ham came out on top in the European Conference League. Therefore, if we look at last season’s results, Liverpool, who finished fifth in the Premier League last season, and Atalanta, who finished fifth in Serie A, were also given the right to qualify for the Champions League.

England have fared well in recent years, finishing in the top two leagues in six of the past seven seasons, but this season they have been given the green light. This is because, as I explained at the beginning, Manchester United and Newcastle were eliminated in the bottom of the group stage, failing to advance to the final tournament of the Europa League, let alone the Champions League.

Looking at the performance rankings in this season’s European Cup matches, after the group stage, Italy was in first place, Germany in second place, Spain in third place, and England in fourth place. Newcastle and Manchester United only managed one win each in the group stage and were eliminated, leaving England lagging behind in fourth place. Furthermore, as they will not be able to advance to the knockout stages, England will not be able to break into the top two leagues unless the winning teams perform extremely well.

Which club will qualify for next season’s revamped Champions League? I would like to pay attention to the domestic league matches and the upcoming European Cup matches.


2023-12-15 10:12:51

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