There’s an old saying that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. But nobody told UEFA.
They’ve decided to tear up the decades-old playbook of their flagship soccer tournament, the Champions League, and introduce a new expanded format that will see as many as 36 teams compete in a single league ladder.
Confused? You’re not the only one… so here’s your guide to the revamped Champions League format, which will be introduced during the 2024/25 season.
Historically, 32 teams have been split into eight groups, with the top two outfits in each progressing to the knockout bracket phase – the Round of 16, then quarter finals and so on, until a winner is crowned.
It’s the format that has brought such a thrilling end to the 2023/24 competition, with those who bet on the Champion League still able to make their predictions from a stellar cast that includes Manchester City (11/5), Bayern Munich (4/1), Arsenal and Real Madrid (both 11/2).
But UEFA will do away with that structure as of next season, rolling out a new set-up in which more teams will play an increased schedule of games – at a time when there are already concerns over player welfare and how many minutes soccer’s top stars are playing.
❌ 32— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) May 10, 2022
A new format approved by UEFA, will see BIG changes to the 2024 season, including more qualified teams in the Champions League!#BBCFootball
As of 2024/25, 36 teams will contest the Champions League, with all of them placed within a single league table. They will each be seeded, with every team playing eight games in total – two from each seeding pot.
At the end of the eight rounds of matches, the league table will confirm the highest-placed teams – the top eight will be spirited straight through to the bracket phase. The sides ranked 9-24 will then compete in a play-in tournament, similar to the one used in the NBA, to determine the rest of the teams to make up the Round of 16.
Hard to Stomach
This format is often known as the ‘Swiss model’ of tournament structures, although the revamp of the Champions League has not been met as warmly as a bar of the country’s famed chocolate would be.
Some have called it a cash grab, while Real Madrid president Florentino Perez described the new format as ‘unusual’. And the acclaimed soccer writer Jonathan Wilson labelled the move as ‘an autonomous Super League in all but name’ – referring to the doomed breakaway league that some of the biggest clubs in Europe were plotting to free themselves of UEFA’s jurisdiction.
But one of the most outspoken critics of the new Champions League format has been Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola, who used an unexpected culinary metaphor to describe UEFA’s mishandling of the structure change.
Pep Guardiola on more matches in the new Champions League format 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/sgPDT9yk3a— B/R Football (@brfootball) April 23, 2021
The Spaniard labelled the plans as ‘undercooked’, and cited the gruelling schedule of games already played by elite clubs as a reason to have fewer, rather than more, minutes on the pitch.
“Good food needs time to cook. Microwave is not the same. Everything is so quick,” Pep said, bizarrely, before clarifying that he thinks UEFA should take more time to work on a new format that is fair to everybody – not just those with a financial interest in an expanded Champions League.
But will his critique fall on deaf ears?
For more news click thebritaintimes.co.uk