The 2023-24 UEFA Champions League is going to be quite different, as 36 teams will qualify for an expanded group stage which is set to showcase more titanic match-ups prior to the knockout rounds.
How will it grow and how will that affect the teams of the Premier League?
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Those are two of the big questions likely on the mind of those unfamiliar with the expansion, but there are even more items of interest and/or confusion for fans.
Below, we try to sum up the changes coming to the top club competition in Europe, as the UEFA Champions League joins the FIFA World Cup in reaching a larger size.
What’s going to be different about the Champions League?
This season’s 32-team group stage will be a thing of the past, as 36 teams will now be invited to the group stage and the group stage including eight games per team. That means the group stage will stretch early into the new year.
Also gone are the eight four-team groups, as there will be one big league table.
There will still be four pots and a draw, but the selection will come from pots of nine.
The draw presently pits a team against one team from each of three pots, but now each team will meet two teams from all four pots.
And it’s not likely, but we could see a match-up of Premier League clubs — or La Liga clubs, or Bundesliga clubs, or Serie A clubs… — in the group stage due to the sheer volume of clubs in the draw.
Who advances to the 2024-25 Champions League knockout rounds?
The eight best teams from the 36-team single table go directly to the knockout rounds.
Teams 9-24 go into a playoff round, and clubs from the same country can be drawn against each other (9v24, 10v23, 11v22, et cetera).
What happens to teams that fail to reach the 2024-25 Champions League knockout rounds?
Their continental season is done. No teams slide into the Europa League.
What will be different about the 2024-25 Champions League knockout round draw?
The entire bracket will be known from the Round of 16 onward (making for some March Madness-type possibilities for pool nerds like this humble writer).
The first-place team on the group stage table will face the lowest-ranked knockout round qualifier, and have a presumably safer route to the final.
How many Premier League teams make the 2024-25 Champions League?
In all likelihood, five teams will make the UEFA Champions League regardless of how Premier League teams fare in the 2023-24 Champions League or Europa League. There is a chance that the Premier League could be downgraded to four automatic slots but it would take uncharacteristically awful — read: historically bad — struggles from multiple Premier League clubs in the three 2023-24 European tournaments.
Now as many as seven Premier League clubs could reach the 2024-25 UEFA Champions League. Presuming the PL clubs don’t break from history and fail miserably in Europe this season, the 2023-24 Premier League table’s first-, second-, third-, fourth-, and fifth-placed teams will go to the UCL. They could be joined by clubs who win the Europa League and Europa Conference League if those clubs did not also finish in the PL season’s top five.