The Champions League is an annual international soccer competition that takes place between the top clubs in Europe. While not as high profile as the World Cup, there are many who feel the Champions League produces a higher level of play because the teams that participate play together on a more regular basis than national teams that only come together a few weeks before big tournaments. Reaching the quarterfinal of a Champions League competition is a long and arduous journey that begins nearly a year before the quarterfinal takes place.
Qualification for Champions League
Teams qualify for the Champions League by finishing in the top spots of their own domestic leagues. The number of teams that win Champions League berths varies from country to country. In England and Germany, the top four teams gain entry into the tournament. In Spain and Italy, the top three teams go through. In smaller countries such as Holland and Belgium, the top two teams go through. Teams that are slightly lower on the table fill the remaining spots by completing qualifying rounds. All told, 32 teams from around Europe enter the Champions League group stage.
The Group Stage
The Champions League begins with the teams being divided into eight groups of four teams. This is done through a draw process that is designed to ensure that no teams from the same country wind up in the same group initially. Each team in a group competes with each other team in its group over two legs in a round robin format, similar to the World Cup group stage. Like in the World Cup, two teams from each group will be eliminated and two will progress to the Round of 16.
The Knockout Stage
The Round of 16 pits the top two teams from each group against each other. The teams again compete over two legs, playing at home and away. These teams are drawn together by pitting the second place team from one group against the first place team of another group. The loser of each tie is knocked out of the competition and enters the Europa League, which is the second tier international competition for European club teams. The winner of each knockout stage tie then advances to the quarterfinal.
The Quarterfinal Itself
From the quarterfinal onward, teams are randomly drawn against each other, allowing teams from the same country to play one another. Eight teams enter the quarterfinal and play each other over two legs. From there, four teams progress to the semi-final. From there, two more teams are eliminated over two legs and two teams go on to face each other in the Champions League Final. The Final is a singular match held between two teams, the winner of which is crowned Club Champions of Europe for that year.
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