UEFA will initiate a shakeup of its women’s football schedule from 2025, planning to launch a second pan-European competition and change the Women’s Champions League format.
The new tournament will follow a ‘straight knockout format’, with teams which fall out of the early stages of the UEFA Women’s Champions League given a chance to compete in the second-tier contest.
This mirrors the long-running format of men’s European football, which sees clubs defeated in the early stages of the Champions League compete in the Europa League. Meanwhile, the format of the top-tier women’s continental event will also be altered.
UEFA President, Aleksander Čeferin, said: “UEFA has placed huge importance on developing women’s football in recent years, making enormous strides thanks to a dedicated strategy, solid investment and a passion to ensure the game is open to everybody.
“The new UEFA Women’s Champions League format and the introduction of a second competition are further demonstration of this commitment and both will be exciting, competitive competitions that allow more players and clubs across the continent to dream of European glory.”
Regarding the Champions League, from the 2025/26 season the competition will be expanded from 16 to 18 clubs, but with the number of matches remaining the same.
UEFA explained that this will lead to ‘more competitive matches and a wide variety of opponents’ due to Europe’s top-rated women’s teams going head-to-head more often.
The governing body’s end goal via the reorganisation of the Champions League and launch of a new format is to increase competitiveness and maximise participation whilst considering calendar constraints and ‘player load’, its statement asserted.
The current format of the tournament – in place since the 2021-22 season – starts with four groups of four teams, with eight teams progressing to the knockout stages.
Expansion of the Women’s Champions League was previously outlined by UEFA as a means to further grow the women’s game at the international level, with the association stating in September that it was considering such a move.
Concerns had been raised that the early exits of high-profile teams such as Arsenal and Juventus in this year’s tournament could harm the value of the European women’s football – this could be the likely motivating factor in the launch of a second tournament, which would enable such teams to continue competing at the international club level.
Nadine Kessler, UEFA Managing Director of Women’s Football, said: “Despite the success story of the UEFA Women’s Champions League in recent years, we will not stand still. Today, we look forward to another fundamental milestone for the professionalisation of European club football.
“The new format for the UEFA Women’s Champions League will reinforce the competition’s position at the pinnacle of club football and combined with the introduction of the new second competition, will further incentivise growth domestically and help us to build a strong and open European football pyramid that everyone can be proud of.”