By ROB HARRIS
VIENNA (AP) — Revisions to the expanded Champions League format have been agreed by UEFA officials, clubs and leagues with a reduced first phase and a restriction on how past performance can win qualification .
The reformatted group stage would still increase from 32 to 36 teams from 2024, but the number of rounds will only increase from six to eight per team instead of 10, people with knowledge of the talks told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the contents of the private meetings.
The UEFA Club Competitions Committee has approved the format adjustments. The plan will now be voted on at the executive committee meeting.
Two additional places in the expanded format would be allocated to the two top-ranked countries in UEFA based on their teams’ results in European competitions in the previous season, people familiar with the talks said.
If the system was already in place, it would mean the fifth-placed team in England would qualify for the Champions League with the third-placed team in the Netherlands.
The original plan which sparked a backlash, particularly among middle-class clubs, would have awarded the two spots to teams with Europe’s strongest five-season record who failed to qualify in their leagues national.
The distribution of the other two expansion places will see an additional team qualify from the fifth-ranked country in Europe – regularly France – and a fifth place for the national champions who do not automatically qualify.
The first main stage of the new Champions League will see teams placed in a single ranking rather than eight groups. Only eight teams will automatically qualify for the Round of 16. But finishing as high as 24th out of 36 teams will guarantee entry into the playoff round for 16 teams.
There would be 10 weeks reserved for European matches from 2024, but two weeks should be reserved for the Europa League and the Europa Conference League.
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