Champions League and Europa League changes next season
Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham Hotspur are all battling for the top four but thanks to a Champions League rule change that came into force this season, it doesn’t matter if the triumphant clubs finish third or fourth.
With Manchester City and Liverpool clear at the top, all four English teams are now be given a direct route into the Champions’ League group stages.
This was after Uefa changed the rules – and scrapped the playoff games for clubs from the bigger leagues.
- Twenty-six teams now gain direct entry to the UEFA Champions League group stage – including the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League winners – with six qualifying places available
- Every team eliminated in UEFA Champions League qualifying will get a second chance in the UEFA Europa League
- Seventeen teams now gain direct entry to the UEFA Europa League group stage, with ten teams directly transferring from the UEFA Champions League play-offs and third qualifying round plus 21 qualifying places in two different paths (UEFA Europa League champions and league paths)
- There will be a preliminary round in qualifying for the UEFA Champions League (played as a knockout mini-tournament) and UEFA Europa League (played as two-legged ties)
- There is no change to the formats from the group stage onwards but there will be staggered kick-offs – 18.55CET and 21.00CET – in the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
For 2018/19 they will be …
UEFA Champions League holders (1)
UEFA Europa League holders (1)
Top four from associations ranked 1st to 4th: Spain, Germany, England, Italy (16)
Top two from associations ranked 5th and 6th: France, Russia (4)
Champions of associations ranked 7th to 10th: Portugal, Ukraine, Belgium, Turkey (4)
- If the UEFA Champions League holders have qualified for the group stage via their domestic championship, the vacancy will be filled by the champions of the association ranked 11th (Czech Republic), who otherwise compete in the champions path
- If the UEFA Europa League holders have qualified for the group stage via their domestic championship, the vacancy will be filled by the third-placed club from the association ranked fifth (France), who otherwise compete in the league path
- An association may have a maximum of five teams in the group stage
- As now there are two paths: the champions path and the league path. Teams enter as per the access list draw up from the UEFA association Coefficients at the end of 2016/17.
Champions route (four group places)
This route consists of the champions of the associations ranked 11th and below, and now includes a preliminary round as well as three qualifying rounds and a play-off round:
- Preliminary round (played as knockout mini-tournament): four teams enter
- First qualifying round: 33 teams enter plus winner of preliminary round
- Second qualifying round: three teams enter plus 17 first qualifying round winners
- Third qualifying round: two teams enter plus ten second qualifying round winners
- Play-offs: two teams enter plus six third qualifying round winners
All teams eliminated in the champions path between the preliminary round and the third qualifying round will be given a second chance to compete at European level by entering a new dedicated champions path of UEFA Europa League qualifying with staggered access according to round of elimination from the UEFA Champions League. Teams eliminated in champions path play-offs enter the UEFA Europa League group stage directly.
League route (two group places)
This route consists of the third-placed teams of the associations ranked fifth and sixth, and the runners-up of the associations ranked seventh to 15th. There are three rounds in all:
- Second qualifying round: six teams enter
- Third qualifying round: five teams enter plus three second qualifying round winners
- Play-offs: four third qualifying round winners
All teams eliminated in the second qualifying round of the league path will be given a second chance to compete at European level by entering the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League league path. Teams eliminated in the league path third qualifying round and play-offs enter the UEFA Europa League group stage directly.
UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE
For 2018/19 they will be …
Two teams from associations ranked 1st to 5th: Spain, Germany, England, Italy, France (10)
One team from associations ranked 6th to 12th: Russia, Portugal, Ukraine, Belgium, Turkey, Czech Republic, Switzerland (7)
- Ten teams also enter the group stage direct from the UEFA Champions League: six teams eliminated in the league path (third qualifying round and play-offs) and four teams eliminated in the champions path play-offs.
Champions route (eight group places)
This route consists of teams eliminated in the UEFA Champions League champions path between the preliminary round and the third qualifying round. There are three teams in all:
- Second qualifying round: 20 teams eliminated in UEFA Champions League preliminary round and first qualifying round
- Third qualifying round: ten teams eliminated in UEFA Champions League second qualifying round plus ten winners from UEFA Europa League champions path second qualifying round
- Play-offs: six teams eliminated in UEFA Champions League third qualifying round plus ten winners from UEFA Europa League champions path third qualifying round
League route (13 group places)
This route consists of the remaining UEFA Europa League entrants from all 55 associations plus teams eliminated from the UEFA Champions League league path second qualifying round
- Preliminary round: 16 teams enter
- First qualifying round: 86 teams enter plus eight preliminary round winners
- Second qualifying round: 27 teams enter plus 47 first qualifying round winners
- Third qualifying round: 15 teams enter (including the three teams eliminated from the UEFA Champions League league path second qualifying round) plus 37 second qualifying round winners
- Play-offs: 26 third qualifying round winners
This means clubs from Italy, Germany, and Spain, as well as the current holders of the Champions League and the Europa League, all benefit.
And with that, it means Arsenal and Chelsea can get into Europe’s elite competition via winning the second tier competition.
However, it’s still worth busting a gut to finish third rather than fourth. Premier League prize money sees whoever finishes in third get £34.6m – where you ‘only’ get £32.6m in fourth.
The lack of qualifying rounds is a huge boost for English sides who have seen themselves navigate tricky ties in order to qualify for the tournament over the years.
Despite finishing fourth, the season before last, Liverpool had to overcome German side Hoffenheim in the qualifying rounds before going on all the way to the final.
This season they went straight through to the group stage – despite finishing in fourth in 2017/18, 25 points behind Manchester City.
A further two teams from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, and Bundesliga will also qualify directly for the Europa League group stages as well as two from France But sides from lesser leagues will still have to play off.
This means that from next season, the top six will all be guaranteed a place in both European competition’s group stage and will not have to play a two-legged qualifier.
UEFA also revealed more teams will be directly qualifying for the group stages, with 26 in total compared to 22 from this season.
Now, only six teams will gain entry via the qualifying round opposed to 10 this term, but this format will still remain a mini knockout tournament.
Their final change sees more clubs trickle down into the Europa League from the group stages, with 10 sides now playing in Europe’s second club competition.
Seventeen teams will qualify for the tournament directly through domestic league positions and a further 21 clubs will make it through the normal qualifying route.