More teams to qualify directly for reshaped Women’s Champions League

More teams will qualify directly for the reshaped Women’s Champions League group stage from the 2025-26 season, Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) said on Monday, while the new women’s second-tier European club competition will be a straight knockout format.

UEFA announced a new format for the Women’s Champions League group stage on Saturday, along with the creation of a second European competition for women’s clubs, following their Executive Committee’s meeting.

The current format of the Women’s Champions League has sparked criticism in recent months as only four teams qualify directly for a 16-team group stage.

From the 2025-26 season, where 18 teams will compete in a league phase followed by knock-out rounds instead, more teams will also be granted a direct qualification.

In addition to the previous season’s Champions League winner, and the domestic champions of the three top-ranked national associations, the champions of associations ranked from fourth to sixth will access the league stage directly, UEFA said.

The runners-up of the two top-ranked associations will also be guaranteed a direct participation.

“The reformed access list, while guaranteeing participation in the league stage for an increased number of teams will also mean that eight teams play two fewer qualifying matches,” the statement added.

The revision of the women’s competition follows similar changes to UEFA’s men’s club competitions, which will feature the new single-league system from the 2024-25 campaign onwards.

“UEFA has placed huge importance on developing women’s football in recent years, making enormous strides thanks to a dedicated strategy, solid investment and a passion to ensure the game is open to everybody,” said UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin.

“The new UEFA Women’s Champions League format and the introduction of a second competition (will) allow more players and clubs across the continent to dream of European glory.”

The second competition will feature a total of six rounds: Rounds 1, 2 and the last 16, quarterfinals, semifinals and final, played over two legs.

The Women’s Champions League, which began as the Women’s Cup in the 2001-02 season, featured a two-legged final from 2002-03 until 2008-09.

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