The Champions League draw is a big event for football fans, eagerly awaiting the news of which clubs their team will be facing.
Here, we explain how matches are drawn, looking over the various rounds and how teams are seeded.
The Champions League draw is based on a seeding system for all stages of the competition until the Quarter-Finals, which are decided by means of an open draw. This essentially means that the teams are split into two halves: Seeded and non-seeded.
UEFA uses a system of coefficient rankings to decide which teams are seeded and which are not. Let’s take a closer look…
First Qualifying Round (8 teams)
At this stage, the eight teams are split into two groups of four (seeded and un-seeded). Where an un-seeded team beats a seeded team, the former effectively takes the seeded status of the latter in the next round.
Second Qualifying Round (34 teams)
The draw for this round involves splitting the teams into 17 seeds and 17 non-seeds. Again, this is based on co-efficient rankings. These teams are then split again into three regional groups (labelled 1, 2 and 3).
Two of these groups consist of 12 teams and one group of 10. Half of the teams in each group are seeded and half are un-seeded. Each seeded team is drawn against an un-seeded team.
The un-seeded teams that beat seeded teams effectively take the co-efficient of the ‘better’ team into the next round.
Third Qualifying Round for Non-Champions (10 teams)
The 10 teams in this round are split into five seeds and five non-seeds. Each seeded team takes on an un-seeded team.
Once again, if a non-seed beats a seed, then for ranking purposes, the former effectively takes the place of the latter in the next round.
Third Qualifying Round for Champions (10 teams)
This part of the draw uses the same system as the round above.
Play-Off for Non-Champions (10 teams) and Play-Off for Champions (10 teams)
Again, this uses the same system as the round above.
Group Stage (32 teams)
The remaining 32 teams are split into four ‘pots’ (numbered 1-4). The reigning Champions League winners and the champions of the top seven ranked leagues go into pot 1.
If the reigning Champions League title-holder is also the current champion of a domestic league ranked one to seven, then the eighth spot in pot 1 goes to the champion of the eighth-ranked league. The other three pots are decided according to club ranking.
A computer is used to draw these teams into eight groups of four. The eight winners and eight runners-up from each group go through to the Round of 16.
Round of 16
The eight winners of each group go into one side of the draw and the eight runners-up go into the other.
The draw for the Round of 16 takes the following rules into account:
- a) Clubs from the same country cannot be drawn against each other
- b) The first and second-placed teams from the same group cannot be drawn against each other
- c) The winners of each group must not be drawn against each other
- d) The runners-up of each group must not be drawn against each other
- e) The runners-up must play the first leg at home
The group winners are seeded and the runners-up are un-seeded.
The draw for the Quarter-Finals is un-seeded.
The purpose of seeding is to ensure that the best teams don’t meet each other until later in the tournament.
However, non-seeds who beat higher-ranked teams essentially become seeds themselves. This can give them an easier route through the competition than they might have otherwise expected and create some surprises.