Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena will host the 2024/25 Champions League final in the first season of the revamped competition. - © KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV
Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena will host the 2024/25 Champions League final in the first season of the revamped competition. - © KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV

How does the new-format UEFA Champions League work?


The UEFA Champions League, Europa League and Conference League have all undergone a revamp for the 2024/25 season. There are more teams, more games and a new ‘Swiss’ style format. explains how it’s all going to work in European competitions from now on…

More teams involved

The first big change is in how many teams get to play in the Champions League. For over two decades, we’ve been used to 32 clubs going into eight groups of four. As of 2024/25, there will be 36 teams.

The basis for qualification remains the same as in recent years, ultimately determined by a team’s position in their domestic league. In the case of the Bundesliga, as one of the top ranked leagues per UEFA’s coefficient system, the teams that finish in the top four all qualify automatically for the Champions League.

For the four extra berths, one goes to the league ranked fifth in the coefficients, another to an additional domestic champion. As things stand, those do not concern German clubs.

What does impact Bundesliga teams is the so-called ‘European Performance Spots’, used to allocate the remaining two additional teams. As per UEFA, “These places will go to the associations with the best collective performance by their clubs in the previous season (i.e. the association club coefficient of the previous season, which is based on the total number of club coefficient points obtained by each club from an association divided by the number of participating clubs from that association).

In other words, the better a country’s clubs do in European competition one season, the better their chance of earning an extra place in the Champions League the year after, as the Bundesliga did for 2024/25.

Watch: Dortmund's road to the 2023/24 final

With Borussia Dortmund reaching the final, Bayern Munich the semis, and Bayer Leverkusen also in the final of the Europa League, German clubs earned enough coefficient points to finish second in the 2023/24 standings, behind Italy’s Serie A.

Therefore, both leagues were granted an extra qualifier for the next-best team not already qualified (either by league position or as Champions League/Europa League holders). In the Bundesliga’s case, it meant fifth place, taken in 2023/24 by Dortmund.

Find out more about European qualification here

A new format

Gone are the eight groups of four where you played three opponents home and away for six games, with the top two from each group advancing to the round of 16. This group stage has now been replaced by a ‘league stage’ in a model often referred to as the ‘Swiss’ system. It sees all 36 teams placed into one league table and ranked together.

Teams do not play all 35 opponents, however, but eight different teams, with four of those games at home and four away.

A draw will take place before the competition begins to determine which teams will face whom. All 36 clubs will therefore be ranked into four seeding pots depending on their UEFA coefficient. Pot 1 is no longer reserved for the holders and domestic champions, which is why Bayern, Dortmund and RB Leipzig will be in Pot 1, while Leverkusen are in Pot 2. Each team will then be drawn to play against two opponents from each pot (including their own), playing one match against a team from each pot at home, and one away.

Watch: Leverkusen celebrate domestic double

Country protection rules will continue to apply where possible, except to avoid a deadlock situation. It therefore means that the German trio in Pot 1 will each face two of Manchester City, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Inter Milan and Barcelona.

The results of every game go into the overall table, with the idea that every fixture will make an impact until the very end, avoiding dead rubbers that would often come up on the last matchday of the four-team groups.

Who goes through?

The top eight teams in the overall league advance straight to the round of 16. The next 16 teams (ninth through 24th) will then compete in a two-legged play-off for the right to reach the knockout stage. The teams who finish ninth to 16th will be seeded and play the second leg at home against one of the teams who finished 17th to 24th. The winners of those eight ties will play against one of the top eight, who will be seeded in the round of 16.

From that stage on, the Champions League continues in the knockout format we know now, with two-legged round of 16 ties, quarter-finals and semi-finals, before a final over one game at a neutral venue. In 2025, that will be at Bayern’s Allianz Arena.

Watch: The Allianz Arena stadium experience

A further change from previous seasons is that no teams from the Champions League will be able to ‘drop down’ to the Europa League knockout stages. That means teams who finish 25th or lower, and those who lose their play-off ties, are out of Europe for the season.

When will games be played?

Two extra matchdays compared to past years means the league stage will now be played between September and January. In most weeks, Champions League matches will still be played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. However, each of the three European competitions will also have an exclusive matchweek, with the other two competitions not scheduled that week. In the Champions League exclusive week, some games will also be played on the Thursday.

Matchday 8 – the last set of fixtures – will see all games played simultaneously.

2024/25 schedule

  • Matchday 1 – 17-19 September 2024 (UCL exclusive week)
  • Matchday 2 – 1-2 October 2024
  • Matchday 3 – 22-23 October 2024
  • Matchday 4 – 5-6 November 2024
  • Matchday 5 – 26-27 November 2024
  • Matchday 6 – 10-11 December 2024
  • Matchday 7 – 21-22 January 2025
  • Matchday 8 – 29 January 2025
  • Play-offs – 11-12 and 18-19 February 2025
  • Round of 16 – 4-5 and 11-12 March 2025
  • Quarter-finals – 8-9 and 15-16 April 2025
  • Semi-finals – 29-30 April and 6-7 May 2025
  • Final (Allianz Arena, Munich) – 31 May 2025

Watch: Bayern were the last German Champions League winners in 2020

What about the Europa League?

The continent’s secondary competition will also change in the same way, with 36 teams in a league stage playing eight different opponents before going into a knockout phase. Matches will still be played on Thursdays, except in the competition’s exclusive week where some games will also be on the Wednesday.

From a Bundesliga perspective, qualification remains the same, with the highest-ranked team outside of the Champions League qualifiers and the winners of the DFB Cup – or next best Bundesliga team in the event the cup winners have already qualified via league position.

2024/25 schedule

  • Matchday 1 – 25-26 September 2024 (UEL exclusive week)
  • Matchday 2 – 3 October 2024
  • Matchday 3 – 24 October 2024
  • Matchday 4 – 7 November 2024
  • Matchday 5 – 28 November 2024
  • Matchday 6 – 12 December 2024
  • Matchday 7 – 23 January 2025
  • Matchday 8 – 30 January 2025
  • Play-offs – 13 and 20 February 2025
  • Round of 16 – 6 and 13 March 2025
  • Quarter-finals– 10 and 17 April 2025
  • Semi-finals– 1 and 8 May 2025
  • Final (San Mamés, Bilbao) – 21 May 2025

Eintracht Frankfurt lifted the Europa League in 2022. - JAVIER SORIANO

And the Conference League?

UEFA’s tertiary continental competition has been rebranded from the Europa Conference League to just Conference League and will also take the form of a 36-team league stage. However, this competition will see teams play only six games in the league.

Matches will still be played on Thursdays, including in the exclusive week.

The Bundesliga still earns only one place in the Conference League, with the German representative needing to come through the play-off round. That place is initially awarded to sixth in the Bundesliga but can move down depending on additional Champions League qualifiers and the result of the DFB Cup.

2024/25 schedule

  • Matchday 1 – 3 October 2024
  • Matchday 2 – 24 October 2024
  • Matchday 3 – 7 November 2024
  • Matchday 4 – 28 November 2024
  • Matchday 5 – 12 December 2024
  • Matchday 6 – 19 December 2024 (exclusive week)
  • Play-offs – 13 and 20 February 2025
  • Round of 16 – 6 and 13 March 2025
  • Quarter-finals – 10 and 17 April 2025
  • Semi-finals – 1 and 8 May 2025
  • Final (Wroclaw Stadium, Wroclaw) – 28 May 2025