Champions League Format

The UEFA Champions League is structured to allow all UEFA member nations to submit their top teams to the European competition. The format used at present dates back to the 2003/2004 season and has expanded the competition to allow more teams from Europe’s top leagues to participate.

2009-10 UEFA Champions League Format Changes

From 2009 onward, five teams will enter the group stage from new qualifying routes and 22 teams will directly qualify for the group stage. The extra 6 teams being will be champions of associations ranked 10 to 12 and 3rd placed teams in associations ranked 1 to 3.

The major focal point of the amendment was to allow champions from associations ranked 13 to 53 to access the main tournament through a separate qualifying route. The champions would do this instead of playing off against non-champions from associations ranked 1 to 12.

2009 UEFA Champions League Final Match Day Change

As of 2009, the final UEFA UEFA Champions League Final will be played on a Saturday evening instead of the traditional Wednesday evening.

Qualifying Rounds

The Champions League begins with a series of knockout rounds used to determine the teams that will progress to the group stages of the competition. Played from July into late August each year, these qualifying rounds progress through three stages, with teams contesting two-legged home and away ties. The ties are won on aggregate, with the winners progressing to the next round.

The away goals rule is applied to the qualifying rounds of the Champions League, with teams scoring the most goals away from home progressing in the case of an aggregate tie. If the teams are tied on away goals extra time and penalty kicks are used to decide a winner.

Losers of the third and final qualifying round are automatically granted berths in the UEFA Cup.

Group Stages

In the Champions League format the group stage sees participating clubs arranged into eight groups of four teams. The 16 teams progressing from the qualifying rounds are joined by the nine champions of the leagues ranked first to ninth on the UEFA coefficient table, as well as the six league runners up from the leagues ranked first to sixth on the UEFA coefficient table. The final place is reserved for the reigning UEFA Champions League champions.
The eight winners and runners up from each group progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League. The third-placed teams in each group are entered into the UEFA Cup.

Knockout Stages

The final stages of the Champions League are contested in April and May every year. Qualifying clubs from the group stages play in the second round, quarterfinals, semi-finals and final. Besides the final all games are played over two legs using the same rules as the qualifying stages.

The Champions League format is also structured in such a way as to avoid clubs from the same country from playing against each other until the quarterfinals, although exceptions can be made to this rule. The final of the Champions League is a single game played at a neutral venue. The result is decided by extra time and penalties in the case of a draw.