Thursday, August 30, 2007

UEFA Champions League

In honor of Celtic FC making it to the group round in the tournament, I thought I oughta do more research about what the tourney actually is!

The UEFA Champions League is a seasonal club football competition organized by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) since 1955 for the most successful football clubs in Europe. The prize, the European Champion Clubs' Cup, is considered the most prestigious club trophy in the sport.

The UEFA Champions League is separate from the less prestigious UEFA Cup and the defunct Cup Winners' Cup.

The tournament consists of several stages and begins with three preliminary knockout qualifying rounds. The sixteen teams emerging from the preliminary rounds take part in the final knock-out stage, which starts in late February and ends with the final match in May.

The UEFA Champions league is open to the league champions of all UEFA member associations (except Liechtenstein, which has no league competition), as well as to the clubs finishing from second to fourth position in the strongest leagues. Since January 2007 the two lowest-ranked league competitions (currently the Andorra and San Marino leagues) can also represent their domestic champions in the Champions League.


The number of places in the competition depends on the association's rank in the UEFA coefficients table:

* associations ranked 1 to 3 have four positions,
* associations ranked 4 to 6 have three positions,
* associations ranked 7 to 15 have two positions,
* associations ranked 16 or lower have one position.

An association's rank also determines the stage at which the clubs enter the competition. For example, the three highest-ranked associations have two places in the group stage (for champions and runners-up) and two in the third qualifying round (for third and fourth-placed teams), whereas the lowest-ranked associations have only one place in the first qualifying round for their champions. Nine highest-ranked associations have at least one automatic place in the group stage.

An additional place in the group stage is reserved for the title-holders, in case they don't qualify via their domestic league. However, an association is limited to sending at most four clubs for a season. This means that if the title-holders come from a league given four positions, but finish out of the top four, it will take the place of the fourth placed team. The fourth placed team will go to the UEFA Cup.

In addition to sporting criteria, any club must be licensed by its national association to participate in the Champions league. To obtain a license, club must meet certain stadium, infrastructure and finance requirements.

The Stages

The tournament consists of several stages and begins with three preliminary knockout qualifying rounds. Different teams start in different rounds, according to their position in domestic league and the UEFA coefficients of their league, while the sixteen top ranked teams spread across the biggest domestic leagues qualify directly.

In the subsequent preliminary round, participating teams are paired, with aggregate winners proceeding into the next round. Qualifying rounds span from mid-July to late August. The losers of the third qualifying round are transferred to the UEFA Cup, while the sixteen winners of the final qualifying round are joined by the sixteen teams who have qualified directly, to participate in the group stage.

Teams are drawn into eight groups of four teams, each team playing every other team in the group twice (home and away). The group stage is played between mid-September and early December. The teams finishing third in their groups are transferred to the UEFA Cup, while the top two teams from every group qualify for the next round. Here the sixteen remaining teams take part in the knock-out stage, which starts in late February and ends with the final match in May.

All qualifying rounds and knock-out ties are two-legged, with each team hosting one match. The team which scores the greater aggregate number of goals qualifies for the next round. The away goals rule applies. Extra time and penalty kicks are used to determine the winner, if necessary. An exception is the final, which is a single match played at a predetermined venue.

The draws are currently structured to ensure that clubs representing the same national association cannot play each other until the quarter-finals. In addition, seeding of the teams according to their UEFA coefficients is used. The competition system has been undergoing changes since the 1991/92 season (see history). The current system was adopted in 2003.

The Champions League final is the most important match of the season in European club football. The stadium to host the final is selected by UEFA two years before the match.

The winning club gets possession of the trophy at the awards ceremony, but must return it to UEFA headquarters two months before the following year's final. UEFA gives the winners a scaled-down replica of the trophy to keep permanently, and winning clubs are free to make replicas of the trophy as long as they are clearly marked as replicas and are no larger than 80% of the size of the actual trophy. However, the current competition rules also specify that the actual trophy will be permanently awarded to a team that wins three consecutive years or five times in all

Sounds Like a Fun Autumn Awaits!

Hail! Hail!


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