UEFA Champions League Structure (1956-Now)

UEFA Champions League is the most popular and prestigious club tournament in Europe. No wonder approximately 200 million football fans across the world watch the Champions League final.

Thus, every team and player in Europe strive hard to lift the champions league trophy. Then, how well do you know the Champions League structure and statistics since inception?

Don’t worry! because this is the best summary of The UEFA Champions League tournament (1956 – Present). 

Brief UEFA Champions League History

Founded: Champions League was founded in 1956. 

Initial name: The tournament was initially referred to as The European Cup. 

First Season: The first European Cup tournament was played in the 1955/1956 season.

Participants: Initially, only domestic league winners and a few runners-up of the most competitive leagues participate in the European Cup. Notably, only 16 teams participated in the first season. 

Mode of play: From onset to finals, The European Cup was a knock-out tournament.

First Final: The first Champions League final was between Real Madrid versus Reims at Parc des Princes stadium in France. 

First Winner: Real Madrid beat Reims 4 goals to 3 to narrowly win the first European Cup.

Real would also win the next three finals to become the first and only team to win the competition 4 times consecutively. 

Governing Body: Union of European Association (UEFA) has managed the tournament from 1956 to present. In addition, UEFA also manages the Europa League. 

Re-branding: The UEFA renamed the competition from  The European Cup to  The UEFA Champion League in 1992. Since then, the tournament is commonly abbreviated as UCL. 


CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FORMAT

UEFA Champions League is played in four phases that include Qualifying Rounds, Playoff Rounds, Group Stages, and Knock Out Phases.


UEFA Champions League Qualifying Rounds

There are 4 rounds in the qualifying rounds that include preliminary round, first qualifying round, second qualifying round, and third qualifying round. Below are details.

Preliminary Round (4 teams)

The 4 teams are the winners of rank 51 – 55 association as per UEFA coefficients. The winner proceeds to the qualifying stage.

First Qualifying Round (34 teams)

Composed of two sets of teams. First, the winner of the preliminary round. The second set is composed of 33 league winners of association rank 18 – 51.

The teams are grouped into 17 pairs. Each pair play a round-robin format. 17 Winners proceeds.

 Second Qualifying Round (26 teams)

Champions Route (20 teams): The 20 teams include 17 winners from the first qualifying round and 3 teams are league winners of the association rank 15-17. Teams are paired to play home and away to produce 10 winners.

League Route ( 6 teams): The six teams are drawn from runners-up of ranks association 10-15.

Third Qualifying Round (20 teams)

Champions Route (12 teams): The 12 teams include 10 winners from the 2nd qualifying round. The other 2 teams are the rank 13-14 association league winners. 6 pairs play home and a way to produce 6 winners. 

League Route (8 teams): The 8 teams are drawn from 3 sets. They include 3 winners of the second qualifying round (league route). 3 teams are 2nd-placed teams in the league table of associations ranks 7-9. Finally, 2 teams are the 3rd placed teams in the association 5 and 6 league tables.  Home and away matches of 4 pairs produce 4 winners who proceed.  


CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PLAY-OFF ROUND (12 teams)

Champions route (8 teams): The 8 teams are drawn from 2 sets. The 6 teams that proceeded from 3rd qualifying round champion path. Then 2 winners of associations 11 and 12 domestic leagues. The 4 pairs produce 4 winners who proceed to group stages.

League route (4 teams): No new teams joining outside the tournament. Therefore, the 4 teams are those that proceeded from the third qualifying round (league route). Then, the 4 teams are paired into 2 pairs. The pairs then play home and away matches to produce 2 winners.

Both routes produce 6 teams to group stages. 


CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUP STAGES (32 teams)

Many football fans are familiar with most fans. Why so? teams from popular leagues in Europe like Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, and Serie join at this stage.

Teams: 32 teams that play the Champions League Group Stages. The teams are composed of the following:

  • 6 teams join from Champions League Play-off round
  • Champion League winner in the previous season
  • Europa League winner in the previous season
  • 10 teams that are domestic league winners of association rank 1 -10
  • 6 teams that are runners-up of domestic league associations rank 1 – 6
  • 4 teams that are in position 3 in leagues of associations rank 1 – 4

Groups: The 32 teams are divided into 8 groups each group comprising 4 teams.

Mode of Play: Each group plays a round-robin tournament format. This means each team plays the other three teams both at home and away. Therefore, each team plays 6 matches at this stage. As a result, a total of 24 matches are played by each group.

The best 2 teams in each group proceed to the round of 16. On the other hand, the third team drops to the Europa League group stages. The 4th team drops out the competition perhaps back to the local league.


 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE KNOCK-OUT STAGE 

No new teams join from the competitions from this stage onwards. Knock out stage, as the name suggests, teams either proceeds or they are knocked out of the competition.

Therefore, teams are very enthusiastic about winning every game from this stage onwards.  Sometimes, to the extent of not playing their key players during domestic leagues in preparation for the knock-out. 

There are four rounds in this stage namely round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals, and then the finals. Let’s get all the details as follows:  

Champions League Round of 16 (16 teams)

UCL round of 16 marks the beginning of the knockout stage. The 16 winners of the group stage proceed to the round of 16. 

Teams play home and away return match format to determine the winner. The winner proceeds to the quarter-finals. 

Champions League Quarter-Finals (8 teams)

The 8 winners of the round of 16 proceeds to the Champions League quarter-finals. The teams are grouped into four pairs. Then, the teams in a pair play home and away matches against one another. As a result, 4 teams proceed to the semis. 

Champions League Semi-Finals (4 teams) 

Two winners of the quarter-finals are ready for semi-finals. A draw pairs the teams into two pairs. Just like in quarter-finals, the teams play home and away matches to determine the finalist. 

UEFA Champions League Finals 

Champions League final is the most popular club competition in the world. Finally, the best two teams in Europe are playing against each other.

Both teams need to prepare adequately for the big day as compared to the finals of the domestic cups. 

Thus, UEFA schedules the Champions League final several weeks after domestic leagues and domestic cups conclude.  

For instance, in 2019 finals, Liverpool and Tottenham rested for 20 days since the last Premier League game on 12/05/2019. 

The Venue: The ground hosting the final is predetermined by UEFA two seasons in advance. 

For example, The 2019 champions league final will be Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, Madrid, Spain. 

By the way, the 2020 finals will be held at Atatürk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey. 


List of UEFA Champions League Winners by Clubs (1956 – Now) 

Below are the UCL winners, scores and runners up.

Click here to find the complete list with year, winners, score, the host city, host country and stadium (1956 – to Present).

 # Season Winners Scores Runners-up
64 2019 Liverpool 2-0 Tottenham
63 2018 Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool
62 2017 Real Madrid 4-1 Juventus
61 2016 Real Madrid (1-1)ft

(5-3)ap

Atlético Madrid
60 2015 Barcelona 3 -1 Juventus
59 2014 Real Madrid 4 -1 Atlético Madrid
58 2013 Bayern Munich 2 -1 Borussia Dortmund
57 2012 Chelsea (1-1)ft

(4-3)ap

Bayern Munich
56 2011 Barcelona  3 -1 Manchester United
55 2010 Internazionale 2 – 0 Bayern Munich
54 2009 Barcelona 2 – 0 Manchester United
53 2008 Manchester United (1-1)ft

(6-5)ap

Chelsea
52 2007 Milan 2 -1 Liverpool
51 2006 Barcelona 2 -1 Arsenal
50 2005 Liverpool (3-3)ft

(3-2)ap

Milan
49 2004 Porto 3-0 Monaco
48 2003 Milan (0-0)ft

(3-2)ap

Juventus
47 2002 Real Madrid 2 -1 Bayer Leverkusen
46 2001 Bayern Munich (1-1)ft

(5-4)ap

Valencia
45 2000 Real Madrid  3 – 0 Valencia
44 1999 Manchester United 2 -1 Bayern Munich
43 1998 Real Madrid 1 – 0 Juventus
42 1997 Borussia Dortmund 3 -1 Juventus
41 1996 Juventus (1 -1)ft

(4-0)ap

Ajax
40 1995 Ajax 1 – 0 Milan
39 1994 Milan 4 – 0  Barcelona
38 1993 Marseille 1 – 0 Milan

 

EUROPEAN COMPETITION 

37 1992 Barcelona 1 – 0 Sampdoria
36 1991 Red Star Belgrade (0-0)ft

(5-3)ap

Marseille
35 1990 Milan 1 – 0 Benfica
34 1989 Milan 4 – 0 Steaua Bucureşti
33 1988 PSV (0-0)ft

(6-5)ap

Benfica
32 1987 Porto 2 – 1 Bayern Munich
31 1986 Steaua Bucureşti (0-0)

(2-0)ap

Barcelona
30 1985 Juventus 1 – 0 Liverpool
29 1984 Liverpool 1 – 0 Roma
28 1983 Hamburg 1 – 0 Juventus
27 1982 Aston Villa 1 – 0 Bayern Munich
26 1981 Liverpool 1 – 0 Real Madrid
25 1980 Nottingham Forest 1 – 0 Hamburg
24 1979 Nottingham Forest 1 – 0 Malmö FF
23 1978 Liverpool 1 – 0 Club Brugge
22 1976-77 Liverpool 3 – 1 Borussia Mönchengladbach
21 1976 Bayern Munich 1 – 0 Saint-Etienne
20 1975 Bayern Munich 2 – 0 Leeds United
19 1974 Bayern Munich (1-1)extra time

(4 – 0) Repeat 2 days later

Atlético Madrid
18 1973 Ajax 1 – 0 Juventus
17 1972 Ajax 2 – 1 Internazionale
16 1971 Ajax 2 – 0 Panathinaikos
15 1970 Feyenoord 2 -1 Celtic
14 1969 Milan 4 -1 Ajax
13 1968 Manchester United 4 -1 Benfica
12 1967 Celtic 2 -1 Internazionale
11 1966 Real Madrid 2 -1 Partizan
10 1965 Internazionale 1 – 0 Benfica
9 1964 Internazionale 3 -1 Real Madrid
8 1963 Milan 2 -1 Benfica
7 1962 Benfica 5 – 3 Real Madrid
6 1961 Benfica 3 – 2 Barcelona
5 1960 Real Madrid 7 – 3 Eintracht Frankfurt
4 1959 Real Madrid 2 -0 Stade de Reims
3 1958 Real Madrid 3 -2 Milan
2 1957 Real Madrid 2 -0 Fiorentina
1 1956 Real Madrid 4 -3  Reims

 

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