European football: New format to have 128 teams, four groups in Champions League

UEFA's plan to reform European club competitions would see 128 clubs playing a total of 647 matches starting in the 2024 season.

The UEFA Champions League trophy.   -  Getty Images

Plans by UEFA to reform European club competitions would see 128 clubs playing a total of 647 matches starting in the 2024 season (with 407 per season 2021-2024) spread over three continental competitions, according to a document seen by AFP on Friday.

The 128 teams would be divided this way: 32 clubs in the Champions League, 32 in a competition similar to the Europa League and a further 64 clubs in a third competition, itself divided into four groups resembling the basketball conference system used by NBA.

- Champions League, large groups -

- According to the documents AFP has seen, the group phase would begin in August with four pools of eight teams who would play 14 preliminary round matches rather than the six in the current system.

- In total there would be 21 match days in the Champions League.

- The most controversial point is that only four of the 32 participating clubs will have qualified through their national championships.

- Four other clubs would qualify via having reached the semi-finals of the second level competition (Europa League).

- Above all 24 places are reserved for teams that do well in the Champions League and to stay in the competition they would need to finish in the top five of their group, or win a play-off between those clubs finishing 6th or 7th.

- UEFA insists a maximum of five clubs from any national league can be in this top tier competition.

- Europa League -

- The second tier now known as the Europa League will consist of 32 clubs divided into eight groups of four clubs in the first round.

The participants:

- The four teams relegated from the Champions League and the four losing teams on the play-offs.

- The four losing sides from the previous season's 'Europa League' quarter-finals.

- The four semi-finalists from the the third tier cup the previous season.

- Twenty clubs qualifying directly from the national leagues.

- The third tier -

- This is the only one of the three competitions which is entirely open with all 64 teams qualifying from the national leagues.

- The main peculiarity of this competition is its four separate 'conferences' in the manner of NBA basketball.

- In each section there will be four groups of four teams who qualify for quarter- semi and finals of their respective conference.

- The four winners would then meet in a mini tournament with semi-finals and a final, with all four gaining promotion to the 2nd tier competition the following season.

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