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2021/22 UEFA Youth League dates, format, contenders

The UEFA Youth League returns for 2021/22, running from September to the four-team finals on 22 and 25 April.

The UEFA Youth League season will begin in September
The UEFA Youth League season will begin in September UEFA via Sportsfile

The UEFA Youth League returns in 2021/22, with 64 teams competing for a title last won by Real Madrid in August 2020.

The contenders are split into two paths in the autumn, the UEFA Champions League path and domestic champions path, both of which will be drawn in August and begin in September. They come together for the knockout phase, running from the play-offs on 8 and 9 February to the four-team final tournament in Nyon between 22 and 25 April. The full list of contenders in both paths were confirmed after the UEFA Champions League play-offs ended on 25 August.

Format

Felix, Fati, Jones: Stars of today scoring UEFA Youth League goals
Felix, Fati, Jones: Stars of today scoring UEFA Youth League goals

The 32 clubs that compete in the UEFA Champions League path will be those that take part in the group stage of the senior competition. They are joined by the 32 domestic youth champions from the highest-ranked entering associations whose senior side had not qualified for the UEFA Champions League group stage – these teams take part in the domestic champions path. Where the senior side of a domestic youth champion had qualified for the UEFA Champions League group stage, the vacant place is filled by the domestic youth champion of the next-ranked entering association.

The UEFA Champions League path groups (drawn on Thursday) will be the same as those for the senior competition. The group winners will progress directly to the round of 16, with the runners-up going into the play-offs.

The domestic champions path teams compete in two rounds of two-legged knockout ties (drawn on Tuesday). The eventual eight second-round winners progress to the play-offs.

The knockout phase consists of one-off ties starting with the play-offs, where the eight domestic champions path winners will each be at home against one of the eight UEFA Champions League path group runners-up.

The eight play-off winners then join the eight UEFA Champions League path group winners in the round of 16. The semi-finals and final are, as always, played at Colovray Stadium in UEFA's Swiss home town of Nyon.

Draw and match dates

2020 final: Benfica 2-3 Real Madrid
2020 final: Benfica 2-3 Real Madrid

UEFA Champions League path: group stage
Draw: 18:00 CET, 26 August, Istanbul
Matchday 1: 14/15 September
Matchday 2: 28/29 September
Matchday 3: 19/20 October
Matchday 4: 2/3 November
Matchday 5: 23/24 November
Matchday 6: 7/8 December

Domestic champions path
Draw: 14:00 CET, 31 August, Nyon
Round 1 first leg: 29 September
Round 1 second leg: 20 October
Round 2 first leg: 3 November
Round 2 second leg: 24 November

Knockout phase
Play-off draw: 14 December, Nyon
Play-offs: 8/9 February
Knockout draw (round of 16 onwards): 14 February, Nyon
Round of 16: 1/2 March
Quarter-finals: 15/16 March
Semi-finals: 22 April, Colovray Stadium, Nyon
Final: 25 April, Colovray Stadium, Nyon

Contenders

UEFA Champions League path

Group A: Manchester City (ENG), Paris Saint-Germain (FRA), Leipzig (GER), Club Brugge (BEL)
Group B: Atlético de Madrid (ESP), Liverpool (ENG), Porto (POR), AC Milan (ITA)
Group C: Sporting CP (POR), Borussia Dortmund (GER), Ajax (NED), Beşiktaş (TUR)
Group D: Inter (ITA), Real Madrid (ESP, holders), Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR), Sheriff Tiraspol (MDA)
Group E: Bayern München (GER), Barcelona (ESP), Benfica (POR), Dynamo Kyiv (UKR)
Group F: Villarreal (ESP), Manchester United (ENG), Atalanta (ITA), Young Boys (SUI)
Group G: LOSC Lille (FRA), Sevilla (ESP), Salzburg (AUT), Wolfsburg (GER)
Group H: Chelsea (ENG), Juventus (ITA), Zenit (RUS), Malmö (SWE)

Domestic champions path
Deportivo La Coruña (ESP)
Köln (GER)
Empoli (ITA)
Angers (FRA)
Genk (BEL)
AZ Alkmaar (NED)
Trabzonspor (TUR)
Midtjylland (DEN)
Rangers (SCO)
Sparta Praha (CZE)
APOEL (CYP)
PAOK (GRE)
Crvena zvezda (SRB)
Hajduk Split (CRO)
Hammarby (SWE)
Rosenborg (NOR)
Maccabi Haifa (ISR)
Kairat Almaty (KAZ)
Minsk (BLR)
Gabala (AZE)
Septemvri Sofia (BUL)
Csikszereda (ROU)
Pogoń Szczecin (POL)
Žilina (SVK)
Domžale (SVN)
MTK Budapest (HUN)
Žalgiris Vilnius (LTU)
Daugavpils (LVA)
Akademia e Futbollit (ALB)
Shkëndija (MKD)
Zvijezda 09 (BIH)
Saint Patrick's Athletic (IRL)

Team guide

• Along with Real Madrid, who won their first title in 2019/20, are joint-record two-time champions Barcelona and Chelsea, plus both other past holders Salzburg and Porto.

• Ajax, Atlético, Barcelona, Bayern München, Benfica, Juventus, Manchester City, Paris, Porto and Real Madrid maintain their perfect record of having entered all eight editions of this competition, which began in 2013/14.

• Žalgiris are the first UEFA Youth League entrants from Lithuania.

• Akademia e Futbollit, Angers, Csikszereda, Daugavpils, Deportivo La Coruña, Empoli, Hajduk Split, Köln, Pogoń Szczecin, Saint Patrick's Athletic, Trabzonspor and Zvijezda 09 are also making debuts.