Champions League Final

Which Teams Play in the Champions League?

The UEFA Champions League is the pinnacle of football in Europe. While there is no question that it is the biggest club competition in the game, many will argue that it is the biggest competition in football, although fans of the World Cup might argue with this.

Despite this, it is the dream of every side in Europe to lift the Champions League trophy, with the eyes of the world watching the showpiece event wherever it takes place. The competition begins with a group-stage before home and away knock-out rounds that end in a final. While everyone knows about the competition, few know how the teams are selected for it. In this guide, we will look at what the UIEFA Champions League is, how teams are chosen and what the UEFA Coefficient is.

How Are Teams Selected for the Champions League?

UEFA Champions League logoThis is all based on a coefficient that each member association is given by UEFA. Scores are generated via the results of the clubs that have represented a league over the last five years in the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League.
If an association has a high UEFA Coefficient, then they are able to offer more teams in their own league a place in the Champions League. It will also enable teams from that league fewer qualifying rounds that they must go through in order make it to the group-stage of the competition.

As of the 2009/10 season, the Champions League offer two qualification routes into the competition for sides that are not given direct entry. These routes are divided between clubs that win their league, and for the sides that qualify by finishing in second, third or fourth, depending on how many European spots a league has. Five sides from each qualifying stream clinch a place in the group-stages.

The remaining 22 participants are made up of the winners of the Champions League and Europa League (with both sides given automatic entry to the Champions League group-stages regardless of what happens to them in their domestic season). All of the top 12 ranked associations are given at least one spot, with the league’s with a high coefficient given more spots.

What Are the Current UEFA Coefficient Rankings?

Below, at the time of writing in 2022, we have included the top 10 nations and their rankings.

Ranking Association Current Coefficient Teams
1 England 88.855 7/7
2 Spain 78.712 7/7
3 Germany 67.856 8/8
4 Italy 61.854 7/7
5 France 49.914 6/6
6 Netherlands 47.200 5/5
7 Portugal 45.049 6/6
8 Scotland 33.700 5/5
9 Austria 29.900 5/5
10 Belgium 28.800 4/4

England currently have the best UEFA Coefficient having dominated the Champions League over the last few years. The likes of Spain, Germany and Italy have all enjoyed decent showings in different European competition, while France, who sit in fifth, have struggled to make their mark in the men’s Champions League in particular.

As mentioned, the UEFA Coefficients take into account the performances of the leagues and their sides in Europe over the last five years.

How Are Champions League Spots Distributed?

Real Madrid vs Barcelona in the 2013 Champions League Final
Real Madrid vs Barcelona in the 2013 Champions League Final (Little Savage /

For the four sides that hold the highest UEFA Coefficients, they will be given four group-stage spots in the Champions League, two group-stage spots in the Europa League, and one slot in the Europa Conference League.

For the fifth ranked side (France), they are given two spots in the group-stage and one in qualifying round 3 of the Champions League. In the Europa League, they are afforded two spots in the group-stage and one spot in the play-offs of the Europa Conference League. This is the same as the sixth ranked side, although they are only given one spot in the Europa League group-stage and a spot in the third round of qualifying for the Europa Conference League.

Champions League spots, or potential spots, are handed out to each association down to the 54th ranked league. There is a major difference in what is on offer though. As mentioned, the top four will be given four group-stage spots, while the side ranked in 50th, for example, are only afforded one spot in the first qualifying round.

Which Associations Have Been the Best in Europe?

League 1st 2nd 3rd Total
La Liga (Spain) 23 11 9 43
First Division/Premier League (England) 17 17 10 44
Serie A (Italy) 13 10 17 40
Bundesliga (Germany) 10 8 15 33
Eredivisie (Dutch) 0 5 3 8
Ligue 1 (France) 0 2 1 6

La Liga are top of this list by virtue of the fact they have won the most titles. Their 23 dwarfs that of any other league, with the Premier League next up with 17 total triumphs. While England’s top league has technically placed the most times, with 44 placements of 1st-3rd, they do lag behind Spain when it comes to winning the competition.

When Did the UEFA Champions League Start?

European Cup, 1972
1972 European Cup (Fotograaf Onbekend /

The competition began back in 1955/56, and it has been held every year ever since. When it began, the tournament was known as the European Cup, with this its name until 1992. This competition saw just 16 teams involved across four knock-out round, with a first-round, quarter-final, semi-final and final all being played.
The first iteration of the cup saw Real Madrid beating Reims 4-3 to be the first side to ever win the competition – it had to be Madrid, right?

Since then, the competition has changed quite a bit. 1960 saw the competition double in size to 32 teams, with an additional round added to the format. 1992 then saw the tournament become the UEFA Champions League, with the first-round removed and replaced by the group-stages we all know and love.

The 32 different sides in the competition were split into eight groups of four, with each side playing the other three sides at home and away, totalling in six group-stage games. The top sides would then advance from the groups, with those teams then battling through the Round of 16 and onwards.

What Can Teams Win for Winning the Champions League?

The 2021/22 campaign saw a huge amount of prize money on the line. Clubs will be paid the following fixed amount:

Round Prize Money
Play-Off Round €5,000,000
Base fee for group-stages €15,640,000
Victory in group-stage match €2,800,000
Draw in group-stage match €900,000
Round of 16 €9,600,000
Quarter-finals €10,600,000
Semi-finals €12,500,000
Runners-up €15,500,000
Champions €20,000,000

Entry into the Champions League is incredibly lucrative. Simply being in the group-stage and losing every game would still amount to a hefty pay-out. In this iteration of the prize money, a team could stand to earn up to €85,140,000 in prizes.