Manchester City or Inter Milan will enter next season’s Champions League as champions but it will be the final campaign of the tournament as we know it.
From the 2024-25 season, UEFA’s new “Swiss“ format will be usef and the planned alterations have divided opinion.
It will mean more matches for players nearing breaking point but the governing body, who signed off on the proposals at a meeting in Vienna last season, forecasts that it will lead to the revenue being boosted by 33 per cent.
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The usual suspects will be battling it out come spring but UEFA’s plan is going to see more games across autumn.
There will be 36 participating teams, up from 32, who will play 189 games instead of the current 125 in a league phase that will now replace the group stage.
Every team will play eight matches, four at home and four away against different opponents. The top eight teams in the league will progress to the round of 16 with the clubs finishing between ninth and 24th competing in a seeded two-legged play-off. From there it will progress as the norm.
Four places for Premier League teams are guaranteed and it is almost certain a fifth will be invited. That is because two of the four spots will go to the leagues with the highest total co-efficient preceding season – meaning a place for England and another for Spain.
If the changes were being implemented next campaign, that would have meant a spot for Liverpool despite their underwhelming season.
It has not been a popular decision among other league executives – though an initial plan to base it on the co-efficient for several years was shelved.
But one of the remaining spots will go to the side that finishes third in the league with the fifth highest coefficient. And the fourth spot is made for an extra team from the “champions path” side of the qualifiers.
The Champions League currently generates €3.6bn (£3.1bn) per campaign and UEFA competitions director Giorgio Marchetti said: “We are working on (both) conservative and more optimistic projections in a range I would say between €4.6billion and €4.8bn.”