The UEFA Champions League, often called the UCL, is a club competition held annually and organized by UEFA (the Union of European Football Associations). Teams in the European top division contest the UEFA.
To decide the winners, teams go through a round-robin group stage where they try to qualify for a knockout stage which is double legged and then the final.
The UEFA Champions League is a prestigious soccer club tournament often garnering popularity just below the World Cup. The tournament entails 32 teams that compete with one another in a total of five rounds to be crowned the best soccer club team in Europe.
The Union of European Football Associations has a member association coefficient that determines the number of clubs that would enter into the UEFA champions league.
UEFA produces these scores based on the team’s results, representing each association in the previous five UEFA Europa League and also the UEFA Champions League seasons.
Teams with a high number of association coefficients have a higher chance of being represented in the UEFA Champions League and also have lesser rounds of qualifications that they would participate in.
The Union of European Football Associations offers two qualification bases for clubs with no direct entrance into the UEFA tournament.
These two streams are divided between clubs that qualify based on their domestic league champion virtue and clubs that qualify based on their domestic league virtue of finishing between the second and fourth position.
Five clubs would be picked from each of the qualifying streams, and they would automatically be placed in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.
To make it a total of 32 teams, 22 teams would automatically qualify for the group stage as the reigning Champions of the UEFA Europa League or as the reigning Champions of the UEFA Champions League. In addition, they could qualify from their individual domestic League.
The 12 ranked associations in the Union of European Football Association are usually guaranteed a minimum of a single spot. Sometimes, additional spots are given based on their league coefficient.
- How do soccer teams qualify for the champions league?
- Qualification by winning the Champions League or the Europa League
- Qualifying by finishing top in the league
- Qualifying by going through the Qualifying Rounds and Playoffs
How do soccer teams qualify for the champions league?
The complexity of European soccer is pretty enormous. Even though UEFA is the governing body overseeing the continental competitions, individual nations usually run their domestic cups and leagues in ways suiting their country.
With this, various and different leagues have been created, therefore leading to differing qualification processes for qualifying for the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League.
UEFA has 55 national association members, and some of these members do not belong to sovereign states such as the Faroe Islands and Gibraltar. On the other hand, sovereign states such as Vatican City and Monaco are not represented.
Others like Kazakhstan are not recognized as being European because they are not part of the geography.
With the complexity of domestic leagues in Europe, how then do soccer teams qualify for the Champions League? In the subsequent sections, you will be shown various requirements and how soccer teams qualify for the Champions League.
Qualification by winning the Champions League or the Europa League
One significant way to qualify for the UEFA Champions League is for the team to win the Champions League or the Europa League. Winning the Champions League or the Europa League is an automatic ticket to participate in the next season’s UEFA Champions League.
When a team from any of the top ten leagues (English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, French Ligue One, German Bundesliga, Russian Premier League, Primeira Liga, Belgian First Division A, Ukrainian Premier League, The Turkish Süper Lig) across Europe wins either the UEFA Champions League or the UEFA Europa League, they automatically qualify for the group stage of the champions league regardless of their position in their respective leagues.
Qualifying by finishing top in the league
Another requirement to qualify for the UEFA champions league is based on the team finishing position in their League. UEFA has different rules for various countries in Europe when it comes to qualification. This is done through the position that such teams finish in their League.
Below are some of the European leagues and their requirements set by UEFA to qualify for the champions league. These qualifications are based on their league position.
English Premier League
The teams that finish between first and fourth place for the English premier league automatically qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage.
Spanish La Liga
In the Spanish La Liga, the top six teams qualify for the European cups, with only the first four qualifying for the UEFA Champions League while the fifth and sixth would advance to the UEFA Europa League.
UEFA policy is that every nation has a maximum of 5 clubs to be represented in the European leagues.
French Ligue One
For the French Ligue one, the UEFA coefficient in the 2017/2018 season determined that only the top three teams in the French Ligue One would qualify for the champions league.
The coefficient further stated that the top two of the three would advance directly to the group stage, with the third-placed team entering the third qualifying round. Also, the fourth-placed team would move to the UEFA Europa League.
The German Bundesliga
For the German Bundesliga, the teams that finish in the first, second, third, and fourth place would automatically qualify to play in the UEFA champions league group stage.
The fifth group stage finisher would qualify to play for the UEFA Europa League group stage, the sixth team in the German League would be eligible to be drawn for the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round.
The UEFA coefficients rule determines the number of German clubs that can participate in the UEFA competitions (Champions League and Europa League). In addition, UEFA takes into account the German club’s results in UEFA competitions in the previous five years.
Italian Serie A
For the Italian Serie A, the first four teams to finish in the top of the League would get an automatic entry to play in the UEFA Champions League.
Furthermore, the club that finishes fifth in the League alongside the winner of the Coppa Italia also automatically qualifies for the UEFA Europa League tournament.
Teams finishing in the sixth and seventh position, alongside the Coppa Italia winner, would also join the UEFA Europa conference league. At the same time, the last three clubs would fall down to the Serie B league.
Russian Premier League
For the Russian Premier League, the requirement for a team to qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage is to win the Russian Premier League.
The team finishing second in the Russian premier league would go on to automatically qualify for the 3rd qualifying round in the UEFA Champions League.
The fourth and fifth-placed team would then go on to qualify to play in the UEFA Europa Conference League.
The Primeira Liga ( The Premier League)
The Primeira Liga is the Portuguese top league professional association soccer. Only the top two teams that finish in the League would automatically get a ticket to the Champions League group stage.
The team that placed third would enter the playoffs to get a chance at the UEFA Champions League group stage. On the other hand, when the team fails at the playoffs, they automatically get a chance at the UEFA Europa League alongside the team placed fourth and the winners of the Taça de Portugal cup.
Sometimes Taça de Portugal cup winners can qualify for the Champions league cup through playing, but if they do not qualify, then the position is given to the team placed fifth.
Ukrainian Premier League
The Ukrainian Premier League is Ukraine’s highest professional soccer division of the annual soccer championship.
The requirement for a Ukrainian Premier League club to qualify automatically for the UEFA Champions League is for the club to win the Ukrainian League. Therefore, there is no Champions League playoff.
Also, the second-place team of the Ukrainian Premier league would also qualify for the third round of the UEFA Champions League. Therefore, this team would automatically bypass the first and second rounds of the qualification
The Ukrainian Premier League also gets three spots in the Europa League. The third-placed team automatically qualifies for the Europa League, while the fourth and fifth-placed teams are placed in the second and third-round qualification.
This means that Ukraine has five places in the European leagues.
The Belgian First Division A
The Belgian First Division A is Belgium’s top soccer league for association soccer. Therefore, the champion of the Belgian First Division A will automatically qualify for the Champions League. While the second-placed team will qualify to play in the third round of the UEFA Champions League round of four.
The winner of the Belgian Cup (irrespective of finishing first or second in the League) would qualify for the UEFA Europa League playoff. The team that placed third in the Belgian League would go on to be eligible for the third round of the Europa League.
The Süper Lig
The top professional association football league in Turkey is called the Süper Lig. For teams in the Süper Lig to qualify for the UEFA champions league group stage, they have to be the champion of the Süper Lig.
The runner-up of the Süper Lig would also qualify to play in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round.
Qualifying by going through the Qualifying Rounds and Playoffs
Another requirement to qualify for the UEFA Champions League is for the team to go through the Champions League playoff and qualifying rounds.
The qualifying round of the Champions League has five rounds: the preliminary, the first, second, third, and the playoffs. These rounds are played before the group stage.
When the 2nd, 3rd, and playoffs qualifying rounds are to be played, the clubs would be divided into two distinct routes.
One of these routes is the Champions Route, played by clubs that won their domestic league titles, and the league routes played by clubs who did not win their domestic league title.
These teams are then drawn into various rounds based on their previous domestic league season and their federation association rank (UEFA Associations’ Club Coefficient Rankings).
The qualifying rounds, excluding the preliminary rounds, are played in two legs. Each team would play one leg at its own home (home and away basis).
Teams with more aggregate scores in both matches would move onto the next stage. With effect from June 24th, 2021, UEFA abolished the rule of away goals.
For any soccer team to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, the teams are decided through their position in their domestic league and the country’s UEFA coefficient.
The UEFA Champions League coefficient is a system of ranking based on every team’s performance in their respective domestic League over specific periods. Leagues with higher ranks have more teams to berth.
Some teams can go right into the competition or group stage without participation in qualifying rounds and playoffs. But, on the other hand, some clubs have to pass through the playoffs and qualifying rounds (having five rounds) before they can get into the group stage.
Reading the requirements stated above would enable you to understand the process of soccer teams qualifying for the UEFA Champions League.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
The Pitch is Ours is a new beginning for me and a stepping stone to prepare before retiring from the professional soccer team. Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!