The UEFA Champions League is a club football tournament in which the top teams across Europe compete.
The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) organises and oversees all aspects of the competition.
A prestigious tournament that commands a lot of international respect, this is fiercely contested by all entrants, and boasts amongst its winners some of the best teams that Europe has ever seen.
When is it held?
In its current format, the Champions League starts with three knockout qualifying rounds before progressing to a Play-off round, Group stage, and finally the Knockout phase.
UEFA organises the schedule to avoid fixture conflicts with league games, which usually occur at weekends. The final takes place after the end of the season, and on a Saturday in May.
The precise date of each match depends on the calendar of a given year and is subject to change.
Which teams take part?
The top clubs in the different leagues across Europe take part. In total, 78 or 79 teams play in the Champions League.
A coefficient ranking system determines how many clubs from each league can enter in the competition. This ranking is based on clubs’ performances in both the Champions League and Europa League.
As it stands, the countries with the most teams are Spain, Germany and England. Currently, the football associations from of these three countries can enter their top four teams into the tournament: three directly at the group stage, and the fourth in one of the previous rounds.
As of the 2015-16 season, the maximum number of teams from one association that can qualify has been increased to five. This is because the winners of the Europa League will now qualify for this competition during the next season.
To take part in the Champions League, a club’s football association must be a member of UEFA. 53 of the 54 member countries are currently eligible to take part. Liechtenstein are ineligible due to the fact that they have no domestic league competition, with all seven official football teams in the country all participating in the Swiss leagues.
Previous winners (as of March 2016)
- Real Madrid (Spain – 10)
- AC Milan (Italy – 7)
- Bayern Munich (Germany – 5)
- FC Barcelona (Spain – 5)
- Liverpool (England – 5)
- AFC Ajax (Holland – 4)
- Inter Milan (Italy – 3)
- Manchester United (England – 3)
- FC Porto (Portugal – 2)
- Juventus (Italy – 2)
- Nottingham Forest (England – 2)
- SL Benfica (Portugal – 2)
- Aston Villa (England – 1)
- Borussia Dortmund (Germany – 1)
- Celtic FC (Scotland – 1)
- Chelsea (England – 1)
- Red Star Belgrade (Serbia – 1)
- Feyenoord (Holland – 1)
- Hamburg (Germany – 1)
- Marseille (France – 1)
- PSV Eindhoven (Holland – 1)
- Steaua Bucareşti (Romania – 1)
With a total of 15 Champions League wins, the Spanish league is the most successful in the tournament.
Clubs in England have won it 12 times, which is the same number as clubs in the Italian league. There are only five clubs across the continent who have won the Champions League five or more times.
Qualification for other tournaments
The winner of the Champions League qualifies for the Super Cup against the winner of the Europa League. They also qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup and vie off against the winners of other pan-continental competitions for the trophy.