Why we’re excited for the new Champions League format

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Roll on the new UEFA Champions League format — otherwise known as the “Swiss Model” — for next season. Yes, I mean it, and here’s why.

In 2023-24, we have a format of eight groups of four where everyone plays home and away and the top two teams go through to the knockout rounds. Simple enough.

The Swiss model has 36 teams, divided into four pots of nine based on seeding — think of them as champion elements, exotic elements, here-to-go elements and cannon fodder elements. Each team plays two games from each of the four pots, either home or away. You still get three points for a win and one point for a draw, but everyone is ranked in a big league table based on points, from one to thirty-six. The top eight are eliminated in the round of 16, nine through 24 face off against the top eight for a place in the knockout rounds in the home-and-away playoff rounds, and the bottom 12 go home.

And like I said, I’m all in.

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I know all the counter arguments. It’s about more games, which equals more money. fine It creates more fixtures in an already crowded calendar. Ha. This gives more spots to bigger clubs from bigger leagues. Doesn’t bug me, but whatever. It’s a silly name, derived from chess tournaments. Won’t argue with that, although they tell me the Boris Spassky-Bobby Fischer clash was appointment television. (I didn’t know because they happened before I was born.)

However, I won’t lie. I’m on board with that, and the Champions League matchday four proves my point.

With two match days remaining, six clubs (Manchester City, Leipzig, Real Sociedad, Inter, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich) have already qualified for the 16-team knockout round. A further eight could qualify over five match days; It probably won’t happen that all of them will make it, but you’d imagine at least four would clinch. Barring a few close-run groups, that would make the six-match day a snooze… unless you’re excited by that coveted third-place finish, which sends the team into the Europa League — and that’s somehow the equivalent of seeing an ad on your phone telling you your Candy Crush can continue playing even after losing all lives.

Making matters worse is that teams that have already reached the last 16 have no real incentive left in the group stage and, as you can imagine, will be forced to play their B-team. (Either that or they play their starters with the handbrake on, which is arguably worse.) I don’t blame them for that — I’d do the same thing if I were coaching — and they earned the right to rest for the league, but a As a fan, I am under no illusions. Playing Manchester City on Matchday Six, when you line up against Stefan Ortega, Oscar Bob and Micah Hamilton, is not quite the same as facing them in the first leg when Erling Haaland, Bernardo Silva and Rodri are on the field. .. This can lead to bad outcomes that affect other groups in the group — and not in a good way.

Of course, I know what managers say. They want to be first in the group. They don’t want to lose momentum. Their youngsters are really good. whatever: I understand that it helps to finish first and get seeded, because you might face a bad team in the round of 16. But that’s no guarantee: half of last year’s semifinalists didn’t win their group. And besides, managers (and by extension, their players) will always prioritize weekend league fixtures in the here and now, as opposed to may be They will finish first vs. second when the knockouts begin weeks later, in February. Also, at some point, you have to face big clubs anyway.

Going out in the round of 16 or the quarterfinals makes little difference to most fans (or even players). The only guys who really care are the accountants, who note down the extra millions in prize money.

Now, I am not writing this to write off the Champions League. I love everything from music to football to discovering teams and players that I don’t get to see very often. (Yes, that means you, FC Salzburg midfielder Oskar Glöch). It’s football’s premier competition — a showcase for the sport’s highest standards — but I prefer meaningful games with something more important.

the game the game

2:34

Gab and Jules explain: The new Champions League format

Gab Marcotti and Julien Lawrence explain the changes to the Champions League format from the 2024/2025 season.

Will the Swiss model provide it? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure no one will qualify for the knockout rounds after just four games. And finishing in the top eight — now the equivalent of winning your group — will mean more because you’ll get a bye in the round of 16.

Will there be an at-large team between ninth and 24th who will reasonably know what they could be in the playoffs? Perhaps, but you’d hope that between the risk of missing out and dropping down to 24th, and the incentive to break into the top eight and buy power, the motivation remains strong through matchday eight or at least matchday seven. And the fact that once in the knockouts, you’ll be seeded all the way to the finals should provide an extra motivational boost.

(If it were up to me, I’d increase the rewards for finishing more and introduce some WWE-style pizzazz. Finish first, and you get to pick your opponent in the next round. Finish second, you get Next selection, and so on. I pitched it to UEFA: they’re not quite ready for it yet…)

The Swiss model may be driven by money and I guarantee you that, next season, there will be plenty of pining for the Champions League of yesteryear (just as there were — and still are — many who yearn for the old European Cup). me? Looking at match five and six possibilities (with some notable exceptions), I’m ready for a change.

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