The Champions League format is going to look very different in 2024/25, with UEFA having decided to completely revamp European football’s elite club competition. The old group-stage format will be no more, meaning Serie A‘s most experienced European sides – AC Milan, Inter and Juventus – will have to adjust to a new style of competition.

The formats of the Europa League and the Conference League will also change, mirroring the new Champions League format.

The Champions League format has long seen four-team groups with the top two sides progressing to the knockout rounds, but from 2024/25 onwards, UEFA are introducing a Swiss League format and an additional qualification process, which Italian clubs will benefit from.

We take a look at the changes to the Champions League format in greater detail and what they mean for Serie A.

Inter’s Federico Dimarco celebrates a Champions League goal. (@Inter)

Champions League format: What are the new changes?

Instead of spreading 32 teams across eight groups of four, the Champions League expands to 36 teams and renames the group stages as the Champions League league phase, where all clubs compete within one league system.

Rather than playing teams home and away, UEFA have decided that each team will play eight matches against eight different opponents – four at home, and four different opponents away.

AC Milan’s Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic celebrate in the Champions League. [@acmilan]

UEFA will decide the fixtures by splitting the 36 teams into four pots of nine. However, unlike previous years, UEFA will not place the Champions League holders in Pot 1 alongside the winners of the highest-ranking domestic championships, but purely the highest-ranking teams based on their coefficient score. The remaining pots will follow the same method.

Each team in Pot 1 will face two teams from each pot home and away and will not face a team from their own country. However, if a championship like Serie A has four or more teams competing in a single season, rules allow for a club to play one match against a side from their own country.

Fixtures will also take place on Thursday nights on exclusive match weeks.

Bologna coach Thiago Motta. [@Bolognafc1909]

Why will Serie A have five teams in the Champions League?

To allow for the expansion to 36 teams, two more clubs will qualify from the best-performing leagues in Europe each season, with the place going to the team finishing one place outside the automatic qualification places.

Performances of sides from Serie A compared to those from the Premier League, Bundesliga, and La Liga have lifted Italy to the top of the UEFA coefficient table, a scoring system that requires three decimal places to differentiate countries.

So, Italy and Serie A will have five – at least – places in the 2024/25 Champions League. Should an Italian team win the Europa League, a sixth place will go to Serie A.

The third extra place goes to the team finishing third in the league ranked fifth in the UEFA table, while the final additional spot qualifies a club from below the top 10 coefficient leagues via the existing Champions Path route.

However, if an Italian club finishing outside qualifying league positions were to win the Champions League or Europa League, Serie A could have six teams competing in the Champions League the following year.

Atalanta’s Mario Pasalic celebrates at Anfield. [@Atalanta_BC]

Champions League league phase: How does qualification for the knockout rounds work?

Once the final round of matches are played simultaneously on Wednesday, January 29, 2025, the top eight-placed teams will automatically progress to the Round of 16.

Teams finishing from 9th to 24th will compete in two-legged playoff ties to determine which eight teams will proceed to the Round of 16.

After the knockout playoff ties are complete, in a change to previous seasons, UEFA will draw the potential ties all the way from the Round of 16 to the final, but talks are ongoing as to whether they will use a tennis-style seeding system. If they are to use such a seeding system, it would likely favour those ranked highest in the coefficient table.

In an attempt to “provide more sporting incentive during the league phase”, UEFA say the knockout pairings will be “partly determined by the league phase rankings, with a draw which likewise determines and lays out the route for teams to reach the final”.

Clubs will no longer have the safety net of falling into the Europa League, with the sides from 25th to 36th exiting European competition completely.

AS Roma’s Paulo Dybala knee slides in celebration in the Europa League. [@OfficialASRoma]

Are the Europa League and Europa Conference League changing too?

Both the Europa League and newly-branded UEFA Conference League – previously the UEFA Europa Conference League – will expand to 36 teams and follow the same format as the Champions League.

Teams qualifying for the UEFA Conference League league phase will play just six games against six different opponents between September and December.

As is the case in the Champions League, sides who fail to advance from the Europa League league phase will not drop into the Conference League.