Soccer 4 Newbz with former Kansas University Women's Soccer standout, Jamie Fletcher, is a new column that we will feature regularly. The point of this column is to dissect and explain concepts in soccer that, although talked about often in the industry, may not be fully understood by all. If you have requests on topics that you need more explanation on, comment below!
We all hear the hype and talk about the UEFA Champions League, but what exactly does it all mean?
Who is in charge of this prestigious tournament, what teams get in, why is such a big deal, and what is the prize? All great questions that even the most avid soccer fan has trouble explaining. So here is a brief breakdown of what the Champions League is all about…
First of all, it is not a league; it is a tournament and not just any tournament. It is the competition that determines the best men’s club team in the world. The Union of European Football Associations commonly referred to as UEFA (pronounced You-A-Fa) regulates and governs the Champions League competition, coordinating the location of games, the schedule, and most importantly, what teams get in.
It is an honor and great accomplishment for clubs to compete and represent their countries in the Champions League. So it only makes sense that with such a prestigious tournament, comes a complicated process of deciding which teams participate. First, the UEFA has their own Club Ranking System for teams, which uses a point formula based on games won and tied from past Champions Leagues. There are coefficients and points being allocated in a certain mathematical manner, however those details are dull and confusing to most. Simply put, teams that frequently compete in the Champions League from year to year and advance through the stages, receive a lot of points, such as teams like Barcelona FC, Chelsea FC, and Real Madrid CF. Real Madrid CF, the powerhouse from the Spanish La Liga has the most Champions League titles with ten, and are currently the reigning champions from 2014. We will have to see if they can do it again this year.
The second part of Champions League admittance is based on teams’ standings in their home countries league. The UEFA comes to a consensus of which three leagues are the best in Europe. This year it is: La Liga which is the Spanish Premiere Division, Germany’s top football league called the Bundesliga, and the Barclays English Premier league commonly referred to as EPL. Historically these three leagues are staples as the top leagues in Europe. From there, the top four teams from these top three leagues in Europe receive an automatic bid into the tournament. The leagues that rank fourth, fifth, and so on receive bids for their top three teams. Lastly, some of the smaller European countries that do not get an automatic bid for their best team instead have to play in a qualifying tournament to compete for a chance to make it into the Champions League.
…and that is the short version of the complicated entry process into the Champions League! Now let’s talk about the exciting part; the teams, the matches and the brilliant players. It all begins with the top 32 teams in Europe split in eight groups of four. Each team plays each other both home and away, and the matches are determined by an aggregate point system. What does that mean? Plainly put, whichever team has scored the most goals after the two games head to head moves on. If there is a tie, the team that has the most away goals wins the match up. If it still remains a tie after that, there will be thirty minutes of extra time and then the possibility of dramatic penalty kicks.
After the group stages there is a random draw, which determines who plays whom in the next knockout stages. The knockout stages are similar to that of the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament, where there is the sweet sixteen, an elite eight and a final four. However, in the Champions League they are simply named the round of sixteen, eight, and four.
The finals are played in late spring every year, and this year it is on June 6th, at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, Germany. Last year it was at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, Portugal where two Spanish teams squared off, concluding with a dominant performance by Real Madrid. They defeated Atletico Madrid 4-1.
This year the four teams playing in the semifinals are from Spain, Italy, and Germany. Juventus, the top team from the Italian Serie A league is playing Real Madrid CF, from the Spanish La Liga. On the other side of the bracket, Barcelona FC, also from the Spanish La Liga matches up against the German powerhouse Bayern Munich FC, who are the top team in the German Bundesliga.
These four teams comprise of some of the most popular and skilled players in the world. From Lionel Messi to Neymar Jr, to Christiano Ronaldo to Bastian Schweinsteiger to Carlos Teves…the list goes on and on. It is purely, the best playing against the best.
The champions league determines the Champion of Champions and, along with the World Cup and Olympics, it is one of the most hyped and most watched sporting event in the world as it is the highest paying sporting competition in the world, surpassing the World Cup and the MLB World Series.
So in the end, why is it such a feat to win the Champions League? Besides the fact that the winning team receives over 50 million euros, more significant to the clubs and players involved is the overall feat. The right to say that we, the [2015 Champions League Champions] are the best club team in the world is what this tournament is all about.
“We came back from the brink. We beat the unbeatable. We turned our history around. We are the impossible.” [The Chealsea Football Club] after they won the Champions League in 2012.
To beat the unbeatable. To be the Champion of champions. To be the best of the best. THAT IS the UEFA Champions League.
Tune in on June 6th for the final in Germany to see who gets the priveledge and honor of holding up the trophy and the title of the Best Club Team in The World.
Also, if you haven't watched this enough times yet, here's Messi just doing what Messi does best.