UEFA 'could expand the Champions League to 36 teams in drastic change'

UEFA ‘could expand the Champions League to 36 teams in a dramatic overhaul that could see teams play 10 group games and a return to one-leg knockout ties’ from 2024-25 season

  • Decision on changing the competition’s format could be taken next year 
  • Proposals are a way of giving the game’s big names more high-profile fixtures 
  • The revamp would also allow more spots for teams from smaller leagues
  • Last season saw Europe’s premier competition dominated by just five countries

Uefa are considering plans to increase the number of teams competing in the Champions League group stages from 32 to 36 from the 2024-25 season and are considering whether the single-country, one-leg format from last season’s knockout stages should be included in the revamp.  

The proposals give the competition’s heavyweights their wish of more high-profile fixtures and also hand more spots to teams from less-heralded European leagues, with last season being the first time in the competition’s history that the knockout stage solely consisted of teams from Europe’s top five leagues: the Bundesliga, Serie A, LaLiga, Ligue 1 and the Premier League.

Under the plans, each side would play 10 group matches, with one idea being a six-teams-of-six format where every team in the group plays each other home and away. The top teams would advance to the round of 16 as normal, with the four best third-placed teams joining them.

Bayern Munich won the competition last season when they defeated Paris Saint-Germain 1-0

Stars like Alphonso Davies and Kylian Mbappe could come up against each other more often

The other option would see each side play 10 different opponents once, with these opponents decided by a seeding system to ensure that every team has a fixture list with a similar level of difficulty. All the teams would be ranked in one table and the top 16 teams would then progress to the knockout stage. 

The latter idea seems to be growing in popularity, with a feeling that the current round-robin group format has become stale and the bonus for the top sides that they would come up against bigger opponents more often and bring in more broadcast revenue – a pertinent consideration in the age of Covid-19.  

The pandemic has increased support for expanding the competition after initial suggestions to changing the Champions League’s structure were met with a more lukewarm response earlier in the year. 

A decision on whether to go ahead with a revamp could be taken next year with discussions set to resume in the coming weeks, reports The Telegraph. 

Manchester United and Liverpool’s Project Big Picture plan wanted more European fixtures

The 2019-20 Champions League knockout stage only included teams from five countries

Despite Project Big Picture being shelved after a backlash from clubs outside the top six, along with its proposal to scrap FA Cup replays and the Carabao Cup to create room for more European fixtures, England’s biggest teams still want extra space in the calendar set aside for more games against continental giants. 

Smaller leagues are also calling for less of a disparity between the prize money for reaching the Europa League and the Champions League in order to improve the depth of European men’s football.

However, the chief executive of the Swiss Football League Claudius Schaefer feels that even if a breakaway European Super League doesn’t come to pass, the Champions League could mirror those plans, with the gap between the best and the rest growing ever wider. 

‘If it goes in this direction, it would be a terrible, terrible, terrible landmark for European football,’ he said. 

Bruno Fernandes will captain Man Utd on Tuesday evening in place of Harry Maguire in Paris

The group stage of this season’s Champions League kicks off tonight, with Chelsea hosting Sevilla and Manchester United facing Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes, where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side pulled off a famous win to progress to the quarter-finals of Europe’s premier club competition in March 2019. 

Bruno Fernandes will captain the Red Devils on Tuesday evening after Harry Maguire was ruled out of the encounter against the French champions through injury.  

Liverpool and Manchester City will play Ajax and Porto respectively on Wednesday.   

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