Set up by UEFA - european football's governing body - for the
1955-1956 season the competition was originally known as the Champion
Club's Cup but changed its name and format in 1992.
The Champions League is open to the domestic league Champion club and
of each european national association.
Other top-finishing clubs from a national association can be entered
in the competition - but the number of clubs and the point of entry
into the competition is decided by a UEFA coefficient ranking system
based on a mixture of an individual club's performances in Europe and
how all clubs from a particular country have performed overall.
There are three qualifying rounds for clubs who do not qualify for direct entry.
In the qualifying rounds, clubs play two matches against each other
(home and away) with the club scoring the greater aggregate number of
goals qualifying for the next round.
In the event of both teams scoring the same number of goals the team
that scores more goals away from home qualifies. (Known as 'the away
Following the three qualifying rounds a 32-team group stage takes
place with four teams divided into eight groups.
Six matches are played on a league basis to decide which teams advance
to the first knock-out round.
The eight group winners and runners-up advance to the knock-out stage
of the competition and the eight third-placed teams enter a secondary
competition - the UEFA Cup - at the third round stage.
The eight fourth-placed teams in each group are eliminated.
From this stage through to the semi-finals clubs play two matches
against each other on a home and away basis under the same rules as
the qualifying rounds.
The 16 clubs that advance to the knock-out stage play two matches
against each other on a home and away basis, with the club scoring the
greater aggregate of goals qualifying for the next round. In the event
of both teams scoring the same number of goals the team which scores
more goals away qualifies.
These rules apply through the quarter-finals and semi-finals.
The Final is decided by a single match
The tournament consists of several stages.
The competition begins with three knockout qualifying rounds.
Different teams start in different rounds, according to their position
in domestic league and the coefficient of their league. In each round,
participating teams are paired, with winners proceeding into the next
round. Qualifying rounds span from mid-July to late August.
The 16 winners of the third qualifying round are joined by 16 other
teams to participate in the group stage. They are drawn into 8 groups
of four. Each team plays every other team in the group twice (home and
away), and the top two teams qualify for the next round. The group
stage is played between mid-September and early December.
The 16 remaining teams take part in the knock-out stages, which starts
in late February and end with the final match in May.
All qualifying round and knock-out ties are two-legged, with each team
hosting one match. The team which scores the greater aggregate number
of goals qualifies for the next round. Away goals rule applies. Extra
time and penalty kicks are used to determine the winner, if
nessessary. An exception is the final, which is a single match played
at a predetermined site.
The losers of the third qualifying round and teams finishing third in
their groups are transfered to the UEFA Cup.
The draws are currently structured to ensure that clubs representing
the same national association cannot play each other until the
quarter-finals. In addition, seeding of the teams according to their
UEFA coefficients is used.
The competition system has been undergoing changes since the 1991/92
season (see history). The current system was adopted in 2003.
UEFA Champions league is open to the league champions of all UEFA
member associations (except Liechenstein, Andorra and San Marino), as
well as to the clubs finishing from second to fourth position in the
The number of places in the competition depends on the association's
rank in the UEFA coefficients table:
associations ranked 1-3 have four positions,
associations ranked 4-6 have three positions,
associations ranked 7-15 have two positions,
associations ranked 16 or lower have one position.
Association's rank also determines the stage at which the clubs enter
the competition. For example, the highest-ranked association has two
places in the group stage (for champions and runners-up) and two in
the third qualifying round (for third and fourth-placed teams),
whereas the lowest-ranked associations have only one place in the
first qualifying round for their champions. Nine highest-ranked
associations have at least one automatic place in the group stage.
An additional place in the group stage is reserved for the
title-holders, in case they don't qualify via their domestic league.
In addition to sporting criteria, any club must be licensed by its
national association to participate in the Champions league. To obtain
a licence, club must meet certain stadium, infrastucture and finance
There was controversy when Liverpool FC won the competition in
2004/2005, but finished outside the top four in the Premiership. The
English FA ruled that Everton FC (who finished fourth) will get the
final spot. However the UEFA came to an agreement that both Merseyside
rivals would be allowed to enter the compeition with Liverpool FC
starting from the first round and Everton FC starting from the third
round. Liverpool became the first team to negotiate all three rounds
of qualification and reach the Champions League knockout phase.