Sponsored Article: How the European Football Champions League Works: A Guide for Newcomers


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European football, better known as “soccer” in the US, has gained millions of American fans in the past few years. People on both sides of the Atlantic support the game through their attendance and their viewership. But many of the sports-related terms that are so familiar to Europeans baffle their US counterparts.

This is especially the case when it comes to Europe’s annual Championship League, which determines which team is the best of the best. Knowing more about this system will not only enhance your enjoyment of the sport, but it will also help you to better understand the odds for European football games. So let’s take a closer look at this fun and fascinating topic.

How European Football is Governed

Professional European football is made up of individual teams that are governed by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFL). This organization is roughly analogous to the National Football League (NFL) in the US.

The UEFL sponsors an annual competition known as the Champions League tournament, which has been held each year since 1955.

The winner of the tournament earns the right to call itself the best football team in Europe. This is a highly prestigious title that earns the respect of fans from across the globe. It’s second in prestige only to the World Cup, which is held every four years.

How the Champions League Tournament Works

The current system uses a series of qualifiers to determine which teams will move on to compete for the championship. Some teams are directly entered into the list. Others may gain entry by virtue of their performance in their national leagues.

Teams are eliminated through a series of games until the final 32 remain. Half of these are eliminated through a series of games until the top 16 are left.

Setting the stage on the UEFA finals in Wembly Stadium. (Wikimedia Commons/Börkur Sigurbjörnsson)

European football games consist of two 45 minutes halves divided by a break. The game ends after 90 minutes of play, although penalty kicks may extend this time.

Most games end with one team scoring more goals than the other, giving it three points while the losing team receives none. If a game ends in a tie, then the UEFA determines a winner based on other factors, such as the team’s overall performance.  

This approach is similar in concept to when a boxing match is determined by a series of judges rather than a knockout. The idea is to eliminate underperforming teams until only 16 remain. The tournament then enters its next phase.

16 Teams, One Title

The 16 are divided into two groups of eight. Two teams are drawn from each group to face off against each other. Eliminations continue until only two are left. This sets the stage for the championship game, which occurs in a neutral venue which is chosen years in advance.

This final game is the European equivalent of the Superbowl. Cities compete fiercely for the honor of hosting the event. Fans from across the world attend. Tens of millions more watch the game on television.

Unlike other season games, the championship match can go into overtime in the event of a tie. If the score is still tied after overtime runs out, then a penalty shootout determines the final winner. Real Madrid won last year, and have won more Champions League trophies than any other side. 

A fan enjoying the game of soccer. (Pixabay/Damonify)

Nine Months of Football Every Year

The Champions League tournament offers fans the benefit of enjoying a nine-month season. The players get three months off a year. In the UK, they’re off from mid-May until mid-August. Most teams play between 60-65 games each season. As you can see, these athletes really earn their pay!

Still Have Questions?

The Champions League system may seem a bit complex to newcomers. If that sounds like you, then here’s a video that can help.  

A look at the logistics of the Champions League. (TYT Sports/YouTube)

European football is gaining fans all across the U.S. Use the information in this post to acquaint yourself with this exciting, fast-paced sport. Who knows? One day you may find yourself in the stands, cheering for your favorite team as they make their dreams of athletic glory come true.

Florence Marceau
Contributing Writer

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