The Uefa Executive Committee has approved the creation of a third club competition for the 2021-2024 cycle to sit below the Champions League and Europa League.
The governing body for European football said the new competition, which has the working title of “UEL2”, will ensure that at least 34 countries will be represented in the group stages of Uefa club competitions. Currently the minimum number of guaranteed countries is 26.
The new tournament will feature 32 teams in eight groups of four. An additional knockout round will be played after the group stages between teams ranked second in their groups and the third-ranked teams of the Uefa Europa League groups. This will be followed by a round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final, taking the number of games played to 141 over 15 match weeks.
The governing body said it will leave it to individual associations to decide the criteria for earning a place in the new competition, be it through league placing or cup.
Uefa president Aleksander Čeferin said: “The new Uefa club competition makes Uefa’s club competitions more inclusive than ever before. There will be more matches for more clubs, with more associations represented in the group stages. This competition was borne out of ongoing dialogue with clubs through the European Club Association (ECA).
“There was a widespread demand by all clubs to increase their chances of participating more regularly in European competition. This has been achieved with a strategic approach, and in accordance with Uefa’s objective of having both more quality and more inclusivity in our club competitions.”
As part of the 2021-2024 competition cycle, the Uefa Europa League will now be streamlined to the same format as the Champions League and the third club competition, including an additional knockout round played before the round of 16 between teams ranked second in their groups and the third-ranked teams of the Uefa Champions League groups.
ECA chairman, Andrea Agnelli, welcomed the news, saying: “I am delighted that the Uefa Executive Committee has agreed to the changes ECA member clubs have been calling for.
“We believe that this outcome ensures that the Uefa club competitions continue to develop in a manner which is fair and balanced, meeting the demands and requirements necessary to ensure that football remains the number one sport globally.
“I would like to add that this whole process is testimony to the strong collaborative efforts of both ECA and Uefa at all levels.”
Uefa and the ECA recently moved to downplay rumours that a group of Europe’s top clubs might breakaway from the Champions League to form their own semi-closed “European Super League”.