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New UEFA women’s club football system explained

Find out all you need to know about the new competition system, which kicks off from the 2025/26 season.

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Last week, the UEFA Executive Committee approved the post-2025 sporting concept for European women’s club football, and with this a new format for the UEFA Women's Champions League and the introduction of a second European women’s club competition.

The changes follow extensive consultation and collaboration with the European Club Association (ECA), national associations, leagues and competing clubs and is based on the analysis and recommendations of the UEFA Women's Football Committee.

It is the latest step in the continuing evolution of women's football in Europe, which has undergone incredible growth in recent years, reaching new audiences and raising standards higher than ever before.

The new Women's Champions League format will launch from the beginning of the 2025/26 season, introducing a single-league stage featuring 18 teams. It will allow more clubs to compete, with a more competitive and dynamic league stage ensuring every match counts.

For the first time, UEFA will also organise a second women's club competition, meaning new teams can test themselves against European opposition, and some teams who are eliminated in the early rounds of the Women’s Champions League will have a second shot at glory. The changes to the flagship women’s competition follow similar amendments to UEFA’s new-look men’s club competitions, which will feature the new single-league system from the 2024/25 campaign onwards.

Both competitions have been developed with the aim of increasing competitiveness and maximising participation while also considering calendar constraints and player load.

Aleksander Čeferin, UEFA President:

"UEFA has placed huge importance on developing women's football in recent years, making enormous strides thanks to a dedicated strategy, solid investment and a passion to ensure the game is open to everybody. The new UEFA Women's Champions League format and the introduction of a second competition are further demonstration of this commitment and both will be exciting, competitive competitions that allow more players and clubs across the continent to dream of European glory."

Nadine Kessler, UEFA managing director of women’s football:

"Despite the success story of the UEFA Women’s Champions League in recent years, we will not stand still. Today, we look forward to another fundamental milestone for the professionalisation of European club football. The new format for the UEFA Women's Champions League will reinforce the competition’s position at the pinnacle of club football and combined with the introduction of the new second competition, will further incentivise growth domestically and help us to build a strong and open European football pyramid that everyone can be proud of."

Why is UEFA changing the format of the Women's Champions League?

The launch of the existing format was one of the first achievements of UEFA's women's football strategy, Time for Action, which since 2019 has been striving to grow the game across Europe through raising standards and increasing the reach and value of our competitions.

Since the reformatting of the competition for the 2021/22 season, we have seen great matches, record stadium attendances and TV audiences and interest is higher than ever before. Now, UEFA wants to build on the success of the competition and make the Women's Champions League even more competitive, deliver more excitement for supporters and an even better sporting experience for players.

The number of clubs participating in the league stage has increased from 16 to 18, however the format change means that, without increasing the number of matches at this stage, top teams will go head-to-head more often and earlier and all teams will have more competitive matches and a wide variety of opponents.

2023 Women's Champions League final highlights: Barcelona 3-2 Wolfsburg

How will the UEFA Women's Champions League format look from the 2025/26 season?

Under the new format, teams will no longer play three opponents twice – home and away – but will instead face fixtures against six different teams in the league stage, playing half of those matches at home and half of them away.

To determine the six different opponents, the teams will be ranked in three seeding pots based on their latest club-coefficient ranking. To ensure a balanced level of opposition for all and a balanced calendar, each team will then be drawn to play two opponents from each of these pots, playing one match against a team from each pot at home, and one away.

The results of each match will decide the overall ranking in the new league, with three points for a win, one for a draw and none for a defeat. The new format, with all the teams ranked together in a single league, will mean that there is more to play for all the way through to the final night of the league phase where all the matches will kick off at the same time.

The top four sides in the league will qualify automatically for the quarter-finals, while the teams finishing in 5th to 12th place will compete in a two-legged knock-out phase play-off to secure their path to the last eight. Teams ranked 13 to 18 will be eliminated.

The four clubs which prevail in the knockout phase play-offs will then progress to the quarter-finals, where they will each face one of the top-four finishers, who will be seeded and will play the second leg of the quarter-final at home.

From the quarter-finals onwards, the competition will follow its existing format of knockout rounds leading to the final staged at a neutral venue selected by UEFA.

In detail: Who will qualify for the new UEFA Women's Champions League and how will the format work?

From the 2025/26 season, 18 teams will compete in the league stage, two more than presently take part in the group stage format.

In addition to the previous season's Women's Champions League winner, and the domestic champions of the three top-ranked national associations, who qualify directly in the current format, the champions of associations ranked 4-6 and the runners-up of associations 1 and 2 will access the league stage directly.

Four more teams will join via the Champions qualifying path and five from the League qualifying path, which is extended to include, two new teams, the runner-up of the association ranked 17 and the third-placed team from the seventh-ranked association for the first time.

The reformed access list, while guaranteeing participation in the league stage for an increased number of teams will also mean that eight teams play two fewer qualifying matches.

See the access list

Why is UEFA introducing a second competition and how will it work?

A key goal of all stakeholders was to build a second competition that would allow more clubs to compete in Europe and provide further incentive for investment at domestic level.

Thirteen teams, the third-placed teams in the domestic league from associations ranked 8-13 and the runners-up of associations ranked 18-24, will enter the competition directly while a feeding system from the UEFA Women’s Champions League will see the new competition offer a second chance to the clubs eliminated in Round 2 as well as the runners-up and third-placed teams from the Round 1 tournaments.

The second competition will be a straight knockout, played in parallel to the Women’s Champions League. It will feature a total of six rounds, Rounds 1, 2 and the round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final will of which will be played over two legs (home and away).

The winners will automatically qualify for the second round of the champions path of the next season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League, with one round to negotiate for a place in the league stage.

How has the UEFA Women's Champions League evolved over time?

Women's Champions League roll of honour

The competition began as the UEFA Women's Cup in the 2001/02 season, with 33 teams competing during the inaugural campaign. Germany's Frankfurt won a single-leg final against Umeå of Sweden. From 2002/03 until 2008/09, the final was settled over two legs

For its ninth season, the competition was relaunched as the UEFA Women's Champions League, which featured runners-up from the eight highest-ranked associations as well as domestic champions from across Europe. A qualifying round preceded a 32-team knockout with a one-off final.

The 2021/22 season brought the arrival of the competition's most radical reformatting so far. A 16-team group stage, featuring centralised marketing and TV coverage, replaced the previous round of 16. The top two from each of the four groups progress to the quarter-finals.

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