The UEFA Coefficient Rankings Reward Merit Over Bankroll

In a football world where money runs nearly everything, UEFA finally got something right in using its coefficient system to dish out its additional Champions League spots for the expanded 2024-25 season. 

The 2024-25 UEFA Champions League will be expanding from 32 to 36 teams, which means four extra spots for a select few leagues who would surely be eager to reap the rewards of UCL bonus cash.

In order to decide who would be getting the additional spots, UEFA looked to its coefficient rankings. But what exactly goes into the coefficient rankings, and who exactly is getting these extra spots?

Up until a couple of weeks ago, it was looking like a certainty that the Premier League, the richest and most popular of the top five, would benefit. Unfortunately for English fans and the teams in the race for fifth place in the Premier League, a string of poor results saw numerous English sides exit European competitions.

Arsenal, West Ham, Aston Villa, Liverpool, and Manchester City all exited their respective tournaments before the semifinal stage, meaning that the prospect of five English teams in the UCL vanished rapidly.

How the New European Format Works

uefa champions league 2021-22

The main crux of European qualification remains the same. The teams with the best finishes in each league will earn their slot in the respective competitions. The additional Champions League slot is awarded to the leagues in the top two positions on UEFA’s coefficient list.

In the new UCL format, teams will now be formed in a large “league phase” with eight guaranteed games, replacing the present group rounds. With the four extra teams, and new format, the number of matches increases from 125 to an unbelievable 189.

The coefficient rankings are based on each club’s points earned in this current season’s UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, and UEFA Europa Conference League competitions.

Teams receive coefficient points for both winning their matches and progressing into the latter stages of tournaments. A win in any of the three tournaments, at any level after qualification, is worth two points, while a draw is worth one.

Based on this alone, you’d think it would be a given England would lead in the coefficient standings based on the sheer number of EPL teams in the knockout stages, but that’s where bonus points for advancing in the competitions come in.

Teams that qualify for the Champions League’s round of 16 earn five bonus points, plus an additional point for progression to each subsequent round. Europa League teams earn one bonus point for each round from the round of 16 onwards, and teams in the Conference League earn one bonus point for making it to the semifinals and final.

The total coefficient points earned by each team from a specific league is then totaled together, and divided by the total number of clubs in that league that are playing in Europe this season. The result is the coefficient average which is the sum used to fill out the extra spots for 2024-25.

As Things Stand

uefa coefficient standings

The two nations that have secured a place in next season’s UCL are Italy (UEFA coefficient of 20.714) and Germany (19.357), with England just missing out in third (17.375). Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund’s UCL showings have had a huge part to play in this, as well as the continued dominance of Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League.

Based on current league standings, with Italy and Germany both having five UCL slots next season, Atalanta and Dortmund are the two fifth-place teams that would benefit.

Some may be wondering about the validity of the outcomes. At face value, many consider the “big six” of England strong enough or big enough to compete in Europe’s top competition.

Then there’s Villa, who have pushed all the way to a Conference League semifinal and look set to claim a top-four finish, and Newcastle who, despite a horrific season with injuries, have continued to grow and look set to be a fixture at the top of the Premier League for years to come.

The “farmer’s league” rhetoric that often gets spun about the Bundesliga and Serie A also contributes to the more casual fan potentially having the opinion that English or perhaps Spanish teams should be the ones with extra slots. In a way this stance rings similarly to the historical coefficient proposals that were eventually shot down and even to the European Super League that was almost universally renounced.

Rewards and privileges in football should always be results-based, and the new performance-based coefficient ranking is the best possible solution to give clubs outside of the traditional juggernauts a genuine opportunity to sit at the table with Europe’s elites. It will be a fascinating year for European football in 2025 and we can’t wait to see how teams adapt to this ever-changing landscape.

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