2009/10 FormatThursday 18 December 2008
The UEFA Champions League, UEFA's most prestigious club competition, will undergo a series of significant changes from 2009/10 following a decision from the UEFA Executive Committee in November 2007.
The main points are:
• No changes to the format of the main competition, which will still involve 32 teams, split into eight groups of four in the group stage, followed by the knockout phase. The eight teams that finish the groups in third place cross over into the knockout phase of the new UEFA Europa League, formerly the UEFA Cup.
• The 2009/10 access list has been changed according to the following principles: 22 teams (21 teams + the titleholder) qualify directly for the group phase instead of 16. The three national associations with the highest UEFA coefficient ranking will each have three teams who gain automatic entry to the group stage, with the countries ranked 4 to 6 in the standings having two automatic qualifiers and the associations ranked 7 to 12 having one.
• As from the 2009/10 season onwards, there will be four qualifying rounds (including a play-off round), to be played in home-and-away ties, to complete the 32 participants in the UEFA Champions League group stage. There are two qualifying routes; the Champions Path and the Best-placed Path.
• Champions Path: The first qualifying round comprises three two-legged ties involving the champions of the countries ranked 48 to 53 in UEFA competition. The winners of those ties progress to the second qualifying round where they are joined by the champions of the 31 countries ranked 16 to 47 (except Liechtenstein). The victorious sides from those 17 ties join the champions from the associations ranked 13 to 15 in the third qualifying round, with the winners of those ten pairings reaching the play-off round. These five play-off ties will take place on a home-and-away basis with the winners qualifying for the UEFA Champions League group stage.
• Best-placed path: The third-placed side from the sixth-ranked member association, plus the runners-up from the associations ranked 7 to 15, start the competition in the third qualifying round. The winners of these five ties progress to the play-off round, where they are joined by the fourth-placed sides from the associations ranked 1 to 3 and the third-placed teams from the associations ranked 4 and 5. The victorious teams from the five play-off ties qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage.
• Teams from the Champions Path and the Best-Placed Path cannot meet in UEFA Champions League qualifying.
• The losing team from each of the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round ties will go into the UEFA Europa League play-offs.
• The losing team from each of the UEFA Champions League play-off ties will go into the UEFA Europa League group stage.
• The team who finishes in third position in each of the UEFA Champions League groups goes into the UEFA Europa League Round of 32. The four best third-ranked teams will be seeded for the Round of 32 with the group winners of the UEFA Europa League group stage.
• The matches in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round will be split over four weeks instead of two, using dates reserved for the UEFA club competition in February and March to maximise live match opportunities.
• The final is to be played on a Saturday, with kick-off time at 20.45 CET.
• The UEFA Champions League play-off rounds will be centrally marketed by UEFA in accordance with the concept already used for the group stage.
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