UEFA has announced its revised plans for the Champions League format from 2024 onwards, including a change to the number of games and how additional places will be awarded.
Changes to the Champions League starting in the 2024/25 campaign were first confirmed last May, with the group stage to be ditched in favour of a 36-club single league. The top eight clubs will automatically enter the last 16 and teams placed ninth to 24th go into a playoff round.
More recent plans had intended to reserve two of the four new places each season for the highest-ranking clubs that failed to otherwise qualify. It brought stinging criticism amid similarities to the European Super League’s idea of guaranteed entry for the wealthiest teams.
The new plan hasn’t scrapped that idea totally, but the two places for non-qualifiers will be determined by country coefficient rankings rather than individual clubs.
Of the other two places to make the number of entrants up to 36 overall, one will be go the third place team in the domestic league ranked fifth in UEFA's national association ranking, while one is for an expanded qualifying section in the 'Champions path' - thereby rewarding an additional national champion with a place in the main competition.
The UEFA coefficients are determined by how all of a country’s clubs perform across all European competitions over the last five years.
Hypothetically, were those rules to be applied now, England and Netherlands would benefit. But should other nations rise to the top two places in the rankings, they would get the places instead.
The revision serves to somewhat better protect the sporting integrity of the Champions League by not acting as quite so much of an automatic safety net should a big club who has previously done well unexpectedly fail to qualify.
In their statement announcing the update, the governing body said, "This confirms UEFA’s strong commitment to the principle of open competitions and sporting merit, while recognising the need to protect domestic leagues."
As well as adapting the qualification process, UEFA have also lowered the number of games that will be played in the new single-league format.
It was previously confirmed that clubs would play ten matches in the first round – five at home and five away. That would have increased the overall number of games needed to win the Champions League from 13 to 17.
However, a compromise will see each team play eight first round games instead.