Football 101: An Introduction To "The Beautiful
Game". The UEFA Champions League
By STEVEN McMENEMY, MOP Squad Sports Soccer Editor
Jan 22, 2005, 11:56
As club soccer
tournaments go then this one has no equal. Quite simply it is the
most coveted prize in soccer and it is the hope of every big
European club at the start of every season that they win this above
any other trophy.
Of course they can only win the Champions League if they have
qualified to play in that seasons competition. So how does a team
The tournament is run by Uefa, the governing body for soccer in
Europe. In years gone by the Champions League was known as the
Champions Cup, and the only teams that participated in it were the
Champions from each country in Europe, the teams that won their own
respective leagues in the previous season. It was run as a knockout
tournament with teams being paired together and playing each other
home and away, with the aggregate winner going through to the next
The format of the competition was changed in the 1990's to a league
set up, with 4 teams in each league playing each other home and
away. The top two clubs would then qualify for the next round.
Around the same time as a change in format the organisers
changed the qualification criteria too. Now it was not only the
champions who qualified but as many as four clubs could qualify from
each league, depending on the previous success of those leagues in
past european competition.
The result of this change has undoubtedly led to a far more exciting
competition but it has had a negative efect on the clubs playing in
the smaller leagues in Europe. They are forced to play in a
qualifying round of games in order to get a place in the Champions
League, but they are hindered because the teams they have to play
are normally the 3rd placed teams from the larger succesful leagues.
Porto pick up the coveted UEFA Champions
League Trophy after a 3-0 win over Monaco. Picture
As a result the small are getting smaller and the big clubs are
getting bigger, but alas this seems an inevitable outcome of soccer
in the modern age.
The current format for the Champions League after the qualifying
rounds are over is as follows:
There are eight groups of four teams, each club playing each other
home and away for a total of six games. The top two teams after the
round of 6 games then qualify for the next round of the competition.
This round is a knockout stage where the teams are paired up and
then play each other home and away, with the winner going on to the
next round. This is repeated until there are only two clubs left to
compete in the Champions League Final.
So there you have it, a run down of the Uefa Champions League
format. Now when you see the most exciting soccer tournament taking
shape you can do so with the background knowledge required. Sit back
and feel the satisfaction that comes when you realise how wonderful
the "beautiful game" really is, at least when you understand it.