How does Champions League work?

The UEFA Champions League is one of the most prestigious tournaments in all of sports. It is a soccer tournament of 32 teams that compete in five rounds for the right to be crowned the best club in European soccer. How does Champions League work? Find out more below.

How does Champions League workBeginnings of the tournament

The first UEFA Champions League tournament was held during the 1955-56 season, and it has been held every year since.

The inaugural tournament, known as the European Cup (up until 1992), had just 16 teams competing in four knockout rounds. These included: first round, quarterfinals, semifinals and final. Real Madrid defeated Reims 4-3 to win the title in the first tournament.

In 1960, the tournament expanded to 32 teams by adding an additional round. However, it kept the rest of the format the same. In 1992, UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) changed the name of the tournament to the UEFA Champions League. Moreover, they replaced the first round with a group stage.

After that, they split the 32 teams into eight groups of four, with each team playing the other three teams in their respective group in a double round-robin format. The winner and runner-up of each group advanced to the round of 16. Then the teams would continue the usual knockout-stage process (round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals and final).

How do Champions League Qualifications work?

The number of teams each association enters into the UEFA Champions League is based upon the UEFA coefficients of the member associations. These scores are generated by the results of clubs representing each association during the previous five UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League seasons. The higher an association’s coefficient, the more teams represent the association in the Champions League and the fewer qualification rounds the association’s teams must compete in.

Since the 2009-10 season, the UEFA Champions League offers two qualification “streams” for teams that do not receive direct entry to the tournament. The two streams are divided between teams qualified by virtue of being a domestic league champion, and those qualified by virtue of being second through fourth in their domestic league. As a result, five teams from each qualifying stream earn a place in the group stage.

The other 22 teams qualified automatically, either as the defending UCL champion, the defending UEL champion or through their respective domestic leagues. Each of the top 12 ranked associations in the UEFA coefficients are guaranteed at least one spot, with more spots being allocated the higher a league’s coefficient is.

What happens after the qualifications?

Firstly, they split the 32 teams into four different “pots,”. There is a restriction that teams from the same association cannot play against each other. For the draw, the teams were seeded into four pots based on the following principles:

• Pot 1 contains the Champions League titleholders, the Europa League titleholders and the champions of the top six associations based on their UEFA coefficients. If either the Champions League or Europa League titleholders were one of the champions of the top six associations, they also seed the champions of the association ranked seventh, and possibly eighth, into Pot 1.

• Pots 2, 3 and 4 contain the remaining teams, seeded based on their 2018 UEFA club coefficients.

Then, they draw a team from each pot until there are eight groups of four.

How does Champions League Group Stage work?

The 32 teams compete in a double round-robin format called the group stage. The group winners and runners-up advance to the round of 16, the first round of the knockout phase. The ranking of teams is by points. Each team gets three points for a win, one point for a tie and no points for a loss. According to UEFA, if tied on points, they apply the following tiebreaking criteria:

Tiebreaking criteria:

1. Higher number of points obtained in the group matches played among the teams in question.

2. Superior goal difference from the group matches played among the teams in question.

3. Higher number of goals scored in the group matches played among the teams in question.

4. Higher number of goals scored away from home in the group matches played among the teams in question.

If after having applied criteria 1 through 4, teams still have an equal ranking, they reapply criteria 1 through 4 exclusively to the matches between the remaining teams to determine their final rankings. Similarly, if this procedure does not lead to a decision, criteria 5 through 11 apply.

5. Superior goal difference in all group matches.

6. Higher number of goals scored in all group matches.

7. Higher number of away goals scored in all group matches.

8. Higher number of wins in all group matches.

9. Higher number of away wins in all group matches.

10. Lower disciplinary points total based only on yellow and red cards received in all group matches (red card = 3 points, yellow card = 1 point, expulsion for two yellow cards in one match = 3 points).

11. Higher club coefficient.

How does Champions League Knockout phase work?


A draw takes place for the round of 16. Consequently, they split the 16 remaining clubs into two pots of eight. One of the pots contains the winners of each respective group from the group stage. Whereas the other contains the runners-up.

They draw a club from each pot to determine what the matchups would be, with the conditions that a winner and runner-up who played in the same group in the previous round cannot be drawn together again and that clubs from the same domestic league cannot play one another.

The quarterfinal and semifinal draws do not have clubs split into separate pots. As a result, any remaining club can be drawn together regardless of whether or not they are a group winner or runner-up, played in the same one in the group stage or are clubs from the same domestic league. As the draws for the quarterfinals and semifinals take place together before they play the quarterfinals, the identity of the quarterfinal winners is unknown at the time of the semifinal draw.

Knockout-Phase Legs and Tiebreakers

They draw two teams together for each round of the knockout phase, except the final. The teams play two matches called “legs.” The group winners host the second leg in the round of 16. The team that scores more goals over the two legs advances to the next round.

If the aggregate score is level, they apply the away-goals rule. Therefore, the club that scores more goals away from home over the two legs advances. If away goals are also equal, then the teams play extra time. Likewise, they apply the away-goals rule again after extra time. Therefore, if the teams score goals during extra time and the aggregate score is still level, the visiting team advances by virtue of more away goals scored.

If the teams do not score goals during extra time, the determine the winners by a penalty shootout. In it, the team that scores more penalties in a frame of five attempts wins. If the two teams are still tied after five attempts, they continue to alternate players until one scores their penalty and the other does not.

In the final, if the score is level at the end of normal time, the finalists play extra time. If the score is still level after extra time, the winner is decided by a penalty shootout.

Champions League 20/21 Winners
Soccer Football – Champions League Final – Manchester City v Chelsea – Estadio do Dragao, Porto, Portugal – May 29, 2021 Chelsea players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Champions League Pool via REUTERS/Pierre-Philippe Marcou

UEFA Champions League – Schedule

June-August: Qualification

Late August: Group-Stage Draw

September-December: Group-Stage Matchdays

December: Round-of-16 Draw

February-March: Round of 16

Late March: Quarterfinal and Semifinal Draws

April: Quarterfinals

Late April-Early May: Semifinals

Late May/Early June: Final

Champions League Betting Tips

If you are looking for the best champions league betting tips, there is a lot of information available today on the internet. However, knowing which one is good and reliable is more difficult. Therefore, you must know how to distinguish and know the basic criteria to be able to make good decisions based on them.


The 2024/25 edition of the UEFA Champions League will follow a new format. You will read about the new format in one of our next articles. So, stay tuned!