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UEFA Champions League


The UEFA Champions League is the most prestigious club tournament in the world. The annual tournament features European domestic league champions and for some countries one or more runners-up. The UEFA Champions League final is the most watched annual sporting event.

The tournament in its current format with a group stage and multiple teams from the same country was introduced in 1992. The new look took the place of the European Cup which was first held in 1955. The European Cup featured only domestic league champions and did not include a group stage. The new format adopted in 1992 added more clubs and a group stage. Most fans talk about these 2 tournaments interchangeable when referencing number of titles, appearances, records, etc.

Teams qualify for the Champions League through their domestic league finish the previous season. League champions as well as runners-up from some countries qualify either straight to the group stage or to one of the qualifying rounds. The number of qualifying spots each league has is determined based on a strength of league coefficient (UEFA coefficient) based on league performance the previous 5 seasons.

The strength of league coefficient is why the top 4 teams from England’s Premier League (3rd in the UEFA coefficient) earn a Champions League berth while Italy’s Serie A (4th in the UEFA coefficient) receives qualifying spots for their top 3 teams and the Dutch Eredivisie (13th in the UEFA coefficient) only receives 2 qualifying spots. This system is applied to all the leagues in Europe to determine qualification to the Champions League.

After knock-out qualifying rounds in the summer months, the UEFA Champions League starts in earnest with group stage. 32 teams are drawn into 8 groups of 4 teams each. The teams play every other team in their group home and away between September and December. Games are played mid-week as clubs are competing simultaneously in their domestic league. The group winners and runners-up advance to the elimination round. The third place finisher advances to the UEFA Europa League elimination round.

The elimination round starts with teams being drawn into Round of 16 pairings. The Round of 16 features 1st place finishers being drawn to face 2nd place finishers from the group stage but teams from the same association (ie country) can not be paired together in this round.

A random draw is held before the quarterfinals and semifinals with no restrictions on team pairings.

The Round of 16, Quarterfinals, and Semifinals feature home and away ties with the winning team advancing. The Away Goals Rule is applied if teams are tied on aggregate after the 2 matches. The Elimination Round starts in February and runs through May.

The club that wins the Champions League Final is awarded the European Champion Clubs’ Cup. The iconic trophy has been used since 1967. The trophy was designed by a Swiss jeweler, Jörg Stadelmann, and is 29 inches tall and weighs in at 23 lbs.

In addition to the trophy presented to the club, 40 gold Champions League winners’ medals are awarded to the players of the winning team and 40 silver Champions League runners-up medals are given to the players from the losing team.

The winner of the UEFA Champions League is the winner of Europe. They advance to play in the FIFA Club World Cup as the regional champion. They also face the winner of the UEFA Europa League in the UEFA Super Cup in late August. The UEFA Super Cup is considered the start of the new season.

The Champions League’s most memorable feature for some fans may be the Champions League anthem, official called ‘Champions League.’ Tony Britten wrote the score with it being an adaption of one of the Coronation Anthems from George Frideric Handel's Zadok the Priest. It can be heard in the stadium prior to all matches, on TV broadcast, and at the World Soccer Shop office on matchdays when marketing director Page Martin can be heard singing it in the hallways.