Mar 19, 2019

Revamped Champions League would change soccer as we know it

Illustration of a soccer ball broken up into small pieces and rearranged

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

European soccer clubs will meet with UEFA on Tuesday to discuss radical changes to the Champions League that would favor the continent's richest teams and make it harder for smaller teams to qualify, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: The Champions League is the most prestigious tournament in club soccer, drawing a massive global audience and paying out tens of millions of dollars to participating teams. Any changes to its format would be felt throughout the soccer world.

Proposed changes:

  • A new system that would see just four teams relegated each year and help ensure that the biggest clubs are always involved. (Under the current format, teams qualify based on where they finish in their domestic league standings, which means even super-clubs can miss the cut if they have a down year.)
  • Matches being moved from their midweek slots to the weekend.
  • More guaranteed matches. (Currently, a team that goes out in the group stage plays only six times.)

The big picture: For decades, there have been rumors that Europe's top clubs might break away from the current structure of club soccer and form their own "Super League."

  • That conversation heated up last fall when leaked emails showed that seven of them — Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, AC Milan, Manchester United and Arsenal — had seriously explored the idea as recently as 2016.

The bottom line: While these proposed Champions League changes wouldn't create a separate "Super League," they would essentially turn the Champions League into one.

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