The UEFA Youth League will be bigger and better from the 2015/2016 season after the UEFA Executive Committee approved a new format for the competition at their meeting in Nyon.
From 2015/16, the UEFA Youth League will become a permanent UEFA competition and will be extended to 64 teams which will allow the inclusion of youth domestic champions. This addition will increase the quality of the competition and will guarantee a wider country representation. At the same time, the hugely successful innovation of the inaugural edition of the UEFA Youth League, where the competition mirrors the UEFA Champions League format and fixture calendar, has been retained.
So this UEFA Champions League path remains with the same format and system as currently in place, with the youth teams of the 32 participating clubs in the UEFA Champions League group stage playing in the same eight groups of four teams.
From the 2015/16 season, a parallel path for the domestic youth champions will be added. The domestic champions of the top-ranked 32 associations in the UEFA club coefficient ranking will be given access to this path. Associations without a youth domestic champion as well as domestic champions already included in the UEFA Champions League path, would be replaced by the next association in the UEFA ranking.
The two-path competition format provides the best of both worlds for the UEFA Youth League. Clubs and players would still have the benefit of playing matches on the same schedule as with UEFA Champions League which would allow players to travel and spend time with the senior squad, enable clubs to experience international youth fixtures and give the competition added exposure. Meanwhile, the Domestic Champions path will allow a greater representation of countries and clubs.
UEFA Club Competitions Committee chairman Michel van Praag stated: "The UEFA Youth League so far has produced high-quality, competitive football. Now this new format will see the inclusion of the youth domestic champions, in order to have an even higher sporting quality and a wider representation in the UEFA Youth League. We have set a high standard for the competition and we now expect to see it get even better."
• New format
UEFA Champions League path
• 32 teams in eight groups of four (same as UEFA Champions League)
• Group winners progress to round of 16
• Runners-up play in the knockout play-offs
Domestic Champions path
• 32 domestic champions enter first qualifying round (two legs)
• 16 winners reach second qualifying round (two legs)
• 8 winners progress to knockout play-offs
• 8 winners from the Domestic Champions path play at home against the 8 runners-up from the UEFA Champions League path (single leg).
Round of 16
• The 8 group winners from the UEFA Champions League path play against the 8 winners of the play-offs (single leg). The home team is determined by the draw.
• Single-leg ties with the home team determined by draw.
Semi-finals and final
• Played as one-off matches in a single venue.
• Age limits
In addition, the UEFA Executive Committee decided on new age limits for the competition. The Under-19 category is retained, but clubs will be able to include a maximum of three U20 players in their overall list of 40 players for the competition, in order to alleviate the burden on players having school duties.
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