That will take some getting used to: Champions League for the last time with traditional group stage, format changes for 2024-25

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Defending champion Manchester City will kick off the new Champions League campaign on Tuesday. Enjoy it for a while, because it will be the last time that the champions’ ball will be organized according to the familiar format. The next edition in 2024-25 will follow ‘the Swiss system’.

The classic format of eight groups, consisting of four teams, is disappearing. The group stage will be replaced by a mini-competition from 2024-25, with all teams placed in the same table. This is called ‘the Swiss system’. Each club will play eight matches against eight different opponents. That is two more than will be the case in the traditional group stage this season. More competitions, more income, more profit.

The number of clubs that will participate in the champions ball will increase from 32 to 36 after this season. You may think: more room for clubs from smaller countries. But nothing is less true. With the change, UEFA mainly wants to accommodate the top clubs, who wanted to establish the closed Super League in 2021. That initiative was thrown overboard after heavy protests, but now they seem to have succeeded.

The format as we know it today was first introduced in 2003-04. After two decades we are saying goodbye to the group stage. According to UEFA chairman Aleksander Ceferin, the new system will provide more balance. “We are convinced that the chosen format will create a competitive balance.”

What is the consequence for our clubs?

As things currently stand, this change has a positive effect for our Belgian clubs. The champion of the Jupiler Pro League this season will qualify directly for the Champions League again in 2024. At least if our competition does not fall outside the top ten of the UEFA ranking. Belgium is currently in eighth place with a coefficient of 42,200. Austria closes the top ten with 34,000 points.

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