The UEFA Champions League, often referred to as the European Cup, features the most successful football clubs in Europe and is one of the most prestigious club trophies in the game. The UEFA Champions League is not to be confused with the UEFA Cup, which is the secondary championship for European club teams.
The current holder of the UEFA Champions League trophy is Manchester United, who beat Chelsea 6-5 on penalties, 1-1 after extra time, in Moscow May 21, 2008.
UEFA Champions League History
Hailing from the mid-1950s and originally known as the ‘European Champion Clubs’ Cup, or the European Cup, the UEFA Champions League tournament was set up as a competition for winners of the European national football leagues at the suggestion of the French sports journalist, Gabriel Hanot. The tournament was later renamed the UEFA Champions League in the early 1990s and the line-up includes the top performing teams of Europe. However, some teams competing have never been champions in their respective countries.
UEFA Champions League Qualification
The UEFA Champions League is open to the league champions of all UEFA member associations, except Liechtenstein and the two lowest-ranked league competitions in Europe – currently in Andorra and San Marino.
Clubs must be licensed by their national association to partake in the Champions League, with certain infrastructural criteria and financial requirements needed to obtain this license.
Champions League Ranking:
The number of places in the competition depends on the association’s rank in the UEFA table:
• Four positions for associations ranked 1 to 3
• Three positions for associations ranked 4 to 6
• Two positions for associations ranked 7 to 15
• One position for associations ranked 16 or lower
Note: An association is limited to sending at most four clubs for a season.
This ranking system also determines the stage at which clubs enter the competition. For example, the three highest-ranked associations have two places in the group stage (champions and runners-up) and two in the third qualifying round (third and fourth-placed teams). The lowest-ranked associations have only one place in the first qualifying round for their league champions. Nine highest-ranked associations have at least one automatic place in the group stage.
The previous season title-holders are offered an additional place in the group stage in case they don’t qualify through their domestic league. This means that if the title-holders come from a league given four positions, but finish out of the top four, it will take the place of the fourth-placed team. The fourth-placed team will then go to the UEFA Cup instead.
Manchester United and FC Porto are the teams that have appeared most often in the group stages; twelve times each. These two teams have only won the Champions League twice, however.
UEFA Champions League Format
The draws are structured to ensure that clubs representing the same national association cannot play each other until the quarter-finals and seeding of the teams according to their UEFA coefficients is used. The following system has been in place since 2003.
The UEFA Champions League consists of several stages beginning with three knockout qualifying rounds, which run throughout July and August. The round in which teams start the tournament is determined by their standing in their domestic league and the UEFA coefficients of their league, while the sixteen top ranked teams spread across the biggest domestic leagues qualify directly.
In each subsequent preliminary round, participating teams are paired, with aggregate winners proceeding into the next round. The losers of the third qualifying round go to the UEFA Cup, while the sixteen winners of the final qualifying round join the sixteen teams who have qualified directly, to advance to the group stage.
The group stage is played between mid-September and early December and consists of eight groups of four teams, where each team plays every other team in the group twice (home and away). The teams finishing third in their groups go to the UEFA Cup, while the top two teams from every group qualify for the next round. The sixteen remaining teams take part in the knockout stage, which starts in late February and ends with the final match in May.
Qualifying round and knockout ties are two-legged, with each team hosting one match. The team which scores the greater aggregate number of goals (away goal rules apply) qualifies for the next round and extra time and penalty kicks may be used to determine the winner.
The UEFA Champions League final is an exception to this format in that it is a single match played at a predetermined venue.
|Italy||11||14||A.C. Milan (7), Internazionale (2), Juventus (2)||Juventus (5), A.C. Milan (4), Internazionale (2), Fiorentina (1), Roma (1), Sampdoria (1)|
|Spain||11||9||Real Madrid (9), Barcelona (2)||Barcelona (3), Real Madrid (3), Valencia (2), Atlético Madrid (1)|
|England||11||5||Liverpool(5), Manchester United (3), Nottingham Forest (2), Aston Villa (1)||Leeds United (1), Liverpool (2), Arsenal (1), Chelsea (1)|
|Germany||6||7||Bayern Munich (4), Borussia Dortmund (1), Hamburg (1)||Bayern Munich (3), Bayer Leverkusen (1), Borussia Mönchengladbach (1), Eintracht Frankfurt (1), Hamburg (1)|
|Netherlands||6||2||Ajax Amsterdam (4), PSV Eindhoven (1), Feyenoord Rotterdam (1)||Ajax Amsterdam(2)|
|Portugal||4||5||Benfica (2), Porto (2)||Benfica (5)|
|France||1||5||Marseille (1)||Reims (2), Marseille (1), Monaco (1), St-Étienne (1)|
|Scotland||1||1||Celtic (1)||Celtic (1)|
|Romania||1||1||Steaua Bucharest (1)||Steaua Bucharest (1)|
|Serbia||1||1||Red Star Belgrade (1)||Partizan Belgrade (1)|
|Belgium||1||–||Club Brugge (1)|