After initial plans were set out to bolster the opening round to a hefty ten matches, including space for two teams who missed out on qualification through traditional routes but held a high club coefficient ranking, the governing body has backtracked slightly.
The UEFA Executive Committee voted through a revised format on Tuesday following concerns over player welfare and an easy back door into the competition for fallen giants.
The shake-up for the 2024/25 season onwards will see a ‘Swiss style’ first round introduced featuring one division of 36 teams, up from 32. However, each team will now play only eight matches.
Of the four additional places in the competition, two will be reserved for teams which miss out on traditional qualification but are from countries that have performed well in the previous season’s European competitions.
UEFA explained that this year’s competition would have seen the fifth-placed Premier League team and third-placed Eredivise team, currently Tottenham and Feyenoord, elevated into the Champions League through these reforms.
A further place will be awarded to the fifth-best national association, based on coefficient ranking. This will elevate the third-placed team from France’s Ligue 1 directly into the group stage, rather than into a play-off.
The fourth and final additional spot will be handed down to the clubs competing to qualify via the ‘champions path’ play-off route.
This season’s qualifiers saw Hungary’s Ferencvaros, Dinamo Zagreb of Croatia, Denmark’s Brondby and Bulgarian side Ludogorets fall at the final hurdle of this path and these nations can expect to have an extra place in future tournaments to compete for.
The top eight teams in the group stage will qualify for the last-16 while those ranked from nine to 24 will face off in a play-off round, with similar format changes to apply to the Europa League and Europa Conference League from 2024.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin stated: “Today’s decisions conclude an extensive consultation process during which we listened to the ideas of fans, players, coaches, national associations, clubs and leagues to name but a few, with the aim to find the best solution for the development and success of European football, both domestically and on the international club stage.
“We are convinced that the format chosen strikes the right balance and that it will improve the competitive balance and generate solid revenues that can be distributed to clubs, leagues and into grassroots football across our continent while increasing the appeal and popularity of our club competitions”