UEFA Champions League: Goodbye to the group stage, forever

After this week's matches, we are saying goodbye to the traditional format and making way for a revamped structure set to debut next season.
Kylian Mbappe and other stars will have to get used to the new UEFA Champions League format beginning next season.
Kylian Mbappe and other stars will have to get used to the new UEFA Champions League format beginning next season. / Alex Grimm/GettyImages

The End of an Era

This week marks the year's culmination and the final chapter for European club competitions as we’ve known them for two decades. The group stage, with its blend of suspense, now belongs to the past.

Starting next season, the Champions League – along with the Europa League and the Europa Conference League – will be transformed. It will be a sort of mini-league of 36 teams, moving closer to the trashed Super League format but without the closed-door policy. 

Champions League Round of 16 draw

The anticipation for the Champions League Round of 16 draw intensifies as the composition of the pots is revealed. The teams are categorized into two distinct pots. Teams from Pot 1, which showed group-stage dominance and finished first in their groups, will face opponents from Pot 2, teams that finished second.

It’s important to note that teams from the same national association cannot face each other, and clubs cannot challenge opponents they encountered in the group stage.

The Round of 16 involves four weeks’ worth of fixtures. These include two-legged encounters that take place on Feb. 13–14 and Feb. 20–21, as well as March 5–6 and March 12–13. It will set up the pathway for the Champions League final at Wembley Stadium in London on June 1.

Pot 1:

  • Bayern Munich
  • Borussia Dortmund
  • Arsenal
  • Manchester City
  • Real Madrid
  • FC Barcelona
  • Real Sociedad
  • Atlético de Madrid

Pot 2:

  • PSG
  • Inter Milan
  • Lazio Rome
  • Naples
  • Porto
  • RB Leipzig,
  • FC Copenhagen,
  • PSV Eindhoven

The draw is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 18, at the House of European Football in Nyon, Switzerland. It will determine the matches for the knockout stages.

Europa League shifts

The 16 teams destined for the Round of 16 in the most prestigious European competition are now known. We also know about the eight clubs moving on to the Europa League and the eight that have been eliminated from all European competitions.

Teams relegated to the Europa League:

  1. Galatasaray
  2. RC Lens
  3. Braga
  4. Benfica Lisbon
  5. Feyenoord
  6. AC Milan
  7. Young Boys
  8. Shakhtar Donetsk

Teams eliminated from European competitions:

  1. Manchester United
  2. Sevilla FC
  3. Union Berlin
  4. RB Salzburg
  5. Celtic Glasgow
  6. Newcastle
  7. Etoile Rouge de Belgrade
  8. Royal Antwerp

Barça loses to Royal Antwerp but tops UCL group. dark. Next. Barcelona loses to Royal Antwerp

We are going through a transitional moment in European football. The Champions League’s evolution reflects the end of a cherished era and the dawn of a new chapter. It’s promising excitement with a touch of nostalgia.