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How Teams Qualify for the Champions League

The Champions League is the biggest club competition in Europe

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HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM - APRIL 03: The Heineken UEFA Champions League Trophy at the Bitexco Financial Tower on April 3, 2014 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Football fans were given the opportunity to visit with the Heineken UEFA Champions League Trophy on a three-nation tour that stopped in Vietnam under the auspices of Champions League partner, Heineken. Fans took photographs with the brand ambassador, ex-international football star Ruud Van Nistelroy.
Nicolas Axelrod / Getty Images

UEFA use a coefficient system to decide how many teams from each country gain entry into the group stages and how many must go through Champions League qualifying.

The teams who occupy the top three league places in the countries ranked 1 to 3 in UEFA competition gain automatic entry into the group stages for the following season’s Champions League competition. The first and second placed teams in the countries ranked 4 to 6 also gain automatic entry, as do the champions in the countries ranked 7 to 12. The Champions League holders automatically get the chance to defend their title in the following season’s competition.

A full overview of the UEFA coefficient ranking can be seen by clicking here

A country’s UEFA coefficient ranking is decided by how well its teams have been doing in Europe over the previous five years. The club coefficient is determined by the results of a club in European club competition in the last five seasons, and the league coefficient.

For teams who do not make it into the competition automatically, there are two qualifying routes; the Champions Route and the League Route.

Champions Route

The first qualifying round sees the champions of the countries ranked 50 to 53 in UEFA competition play two two-legged ties. The two winners of those ties progress to the second qualifying round where they are joined by the champions of the 32 countries ranked 17 to 49 (except Liechtenstein).

The victorious sides from those 17 ties join the champions from the countries ranked 14 to 16 in the third qualifying round. The winners of these 10 ties go through to the play-off round. The winners of these five ties, which take place on a home and away basis, reach the group stages of the Champions League

League Route

The third-placed team from the sixth-ranked member association starts in the third qualifying round alongside the runners-up from the associations ranked 7 to 15.

The winners of these five ties go through to the play-off round where they are joined by the fourth-placed teams from the member associations ranked 1 to 3, and the third-placed sides from the associations ranked 4 and 5. The teams that emerge victorious from these five ties go through to the group stages of the Champions League.

  • Teams in the Champions Route cannot meet those in the League route.
  • Teams who lose in the third qualifying round go into the Europa League play-offs.
  • The five teams who lose in the Champions League play-off round enter the Europa League group stages.
  • Teams who finish third in each of the Champions League groups go into the Europa League round of 32.
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