Your guide to the Champions League – Part 1

By Dillon Cooper

No baseball.  No football.  Your basketball team’s regular season is probably a lost cause, I know mine is.  However, if you’re looking for something to watch until the baseball season kicks in, don’t worry, the greatest soccer competition in the world is now in full stride just across the pond in Europe.

The Champions League is a collection of European’s elite soccer teams.  The biggest teams from England, Spain, Germany, Italy, and countries you never even heard of, compete in a format similar to the World Cup every year.

In order to qualify for the Champions League, clubs must finish in the top spots in their respective leagues.  For example, the top four spots in England and Spain qualify while only the top three spots in Italy qualify.  

The way UEFA (Union of European Football Association) determines how many spots each league receives is way too complicated to talk about, so I’ll just link you to it:

The lower ranked teams enter a separate tournament to qualify for the Group Stage.  Most of these teams are irrelevant and you really don’t need to pay attention to them.  Unless you find yourself in Estonia, supporting the club Kalju.

The Group Stage pits elite teams from different leagues against each other.  Clubs are seeded based on their coefficient, similar to how many spots in the Champions League a league is given.  

There are eight groups of four and each team plays each other twice.  A win is three points, a draw is one, and a loss will get you nothing.  The top two clubs in each group advance to the first knockout stage of the competition, the Round of 16.  Teams at the top of their group play teams that finished second in their own respective groups group.  

The Round of 16 through the semifinals consist of two matches per round.  Each team plays each other twice, home and away, whoever leads the aggregate score line at the end of the two ties, advances.  If the teams are tied at the end of the second match, the team with the most away goals advances.  If the teams have the same amount of away goals at the end of the second match, the match will go into extra time, and if needed, penalties.

The knockout stages are quite remarkable and produce some of the greatest moments in sports.  There are upsets, last-minute goals, unreal performances by some of the world’s best, and some of the most amazing atmospheres you will ever see at a sporting event.

Of course there are upsets, last-minute goals, unreal performances, and amazing atmospheres in other competitions around the world, but you can’t get Chelsea vs Barcelona over two legs anywhere else.  You can’t get Real Madrid vs Manchester United in any other competition, but the Champions League.  

In the 2013 competition, the global audience for each one of the knockout games ranged from 105 million to 228 million with the final reaching over 360 million viewers.  To put that into perspective, Super Bowl XLVIII had approximately 111.5 million viewers, less than half the amount of the 2013 Champions League final.

Currently, we are at the Round of 16 with the most intriguing ties being Manchester City vs Barcelona and Bayern Munich vs Arsenal.

In part 2 of this segment, I will break down each matchup in the Round of 16, getting people familiar with the clubs, because let’s face it, a majority of America have nothing to watch and they need to be introduced to the greatest sport in the world.

The World Cup is just around the corner, so it’s about time America familiarizes themselves with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Diego Costa, Robert Lewandowski, Olivier Giroud, Thiago Silva, and of course Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.  These names will be all over your TV, newspapers, cellular devices, and everything else imaginable this year.

The Champions League is set to return back to action Tue. Feb. 18th at 2:45 ET as Bayer Leverkusen hosts Paris Saint-German and Manchester City hosts Barcelona.


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