New Women’s Champions League format with group stage: how it will work

A 16-team group stage with centralised marketing and TV will be introduced from 2021/22.

New Women’s Champions League format explained

A new UEFA Women’s Champions League format will be introduced from 2021/22, including a 16-team group stage as well as centralised marketing and TV coverage.

The change was agreed today by the UEFA Executive Committee in Nyon as the first direct outcome of the UEFA women’s football strategy #TimeForAction, which aims to double the reach and value of the UEFA Women’s Champions League.

The change means a 20% increase in the number of matches, or a 39% increase excluding the first round which is played in the form of mini-tournaments, and gives the tournament more competitive games and increased visibility and quality. The new format was developed by UEFA in close collaboration with the clubs and the European Club Association and will set a new benchmark for an international women’s club football competition.

Key changes

  • The current knockout round of 16 will be replaced by a group stage, with four groups of four teams playing each other home and away. The top two in each group progress to the quarter-finals.
  • Currently only the final is centrally marketed by UEFA, with the home sides responsible for all earlier rounds. In the new format and agreement, the media rights will be centralised from the group stage onwards, with UEFA producing every game for TV or online streaming purposes. Sponsorship rights will be partially centralised for UEFA women’s football partners from the group stage.
  • In its first season, eight matchdays of the competition (two in Round 2, four in the group stage and both quarter-final legs) will be scheduled so that they will not clash with other major football competitions.
  • The top-six ranked associations (as per the Women’s Association Club Coefficients at the start of the previous season, i.e. summer 2020 for 2021/22) will each enter three teams, the associations ranked seven to 16 will each enter two. All other associations have the chance to enter one team, being their domestic champion as before.
  • The group stage would be preceded by two rounds, split into champions and league paths (as in the men’s UEFA Champions League) to ensure at least ten associations are represented in the group stage
  • Round 1 will be played as knockout mini-tournaments with a semi-final, a third-place match and a final while Round 2 is played as home-and-away ties.
Lyon's record six triumphs
Lyon's record six triumphs

Competition format

All examples based on 50 associations entering teams as per 2019/20 season

Entries

Entry stage: Group stage

In principle, the title holders and the champions of the three top-ranked associations.

Entry stage: Round 2

Champions path: The champions of associations ranked 4 to 6.

League path: The runners-up of the associations ranked 1 to 6.

Entry stage: Round 1

Champions path: The champions of associations ranked 7 and below.

League path: The runners-up of the associations ranked 7 to 16 and the third-ranked teams of the associations ranked 1 to 6.

Champions path

Round 1 (August)

• The champions of the associations entering in this round will be drawn into knockout mini-tournaments.

• The one-venue tournaments will be played with one-off semi-finals, a third-place match and a final.

• The final winners will progress to Round 2.

Round 2 (August/September)

• The three champions of associations 4 to 6 and the winners of Round 1 will compete in the Round 2 champions path with two legs, home and away.

• Seven champions path teams progress to the group stage.

Top ten #UWCL goals of the 2018/19 season
Top ten #UWCL goals of the 2018/19 season

League path

Round 1 (August)

• The third-placed teams from the associations ranked 1 to 6 and the runners-up of the associations ranked 7 to 16 will be drawn into four knockout mini-tournaments.

• The one-venue tournaments will be played with one-off semi-finals, a third-place match and a final.

• The final winners will progress to Round 2.

Round 2 (August/September)

• The Round 1 winners and the runners-up of the associations ranked 1 to 6 will compete in the Round 2 league path with two legs, home and away.

• Five league path teams progress to the group stage.

Best UEFA Women's Champions League final goals
Best UEFA Women's Champions League final goals

Group stage (October, November, December)

• The Round 2 winners join the teams entering at this stage (title holders, and champions of associations ranked 1 to 3)

• The 16 teams will be drawn into four groups of four.

• The teams will play each other home and away over six matchdays.

• The top two in each group progress to the quarter-finals.

Knockout phase (March, April, May)

• The format will remain unchanged: two-legged quarter-finals and semi-finals, plus a one-off final at a pre-selected venue played, in principle, the weekend before the men’s UEFA Champions League final.

Previous formats

UEFA Women’s Cup (2001/02 to 2008/09)

• One entry from every association plus title holders. Some teams given direct entry to the second qualifying round.

• First qualifying round: knockout in 2001/02, one-venue mini-tournaments from 2002/03.

• Second qualifying round mini-tournaments.

• Knockout phase: quarter-finals onward (two legs).

• Final: One off in 2001/02, two-legged from 2002/03.

UEFA Women’s Champions League (2009/10 to 2020/21)

• Two entries from certain associations (top eight from 2009/10, top 12 since 2016/17), champions of other associations plus title holders. Some teams given direct entery to the round of 32.

• Qualifying round played as one-venue mini-tournaments.

• Two-legged knockout from round of 32 to semi-finals.

• One-off final, played in principle in same city on Thursday before men’s UEFA Champions League final from 2010 to 2018, in separate city on previous weekend from 2019 onward.

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