No more 7.45pm Champions League starts next season
Staggered kick-off times introduced, four English teams qualify direct
Champions League matches will no longer be at 7.45pm, starting next season. Photograph: Getty Images)
Starting with the 2018/19 season, matches will begin at either 5.55pm or 8pm. Much the same as how the Europa League already functions.
In other changes announced on Tuesday, 26 teams now gain direct entry to the Champions League group stage – including the current holders and the Europa League winners – with six qualifying places available. Among those given direct passage to the group stages are the top four in the Premier League, along with the top four in Spain, Germany and Italy. From those four leagues, the fifth and sixth placed teams will also be guaranteed a spot in the Europa League group stages.
Every team eliminated from the Champions League qualifying will now get a second chance in the Europa League - with 10 places in the group stages available for such. A further 21 teams can qualify via the normal route, while 17 go straight into the group stages. These changes are good news for the Irish teams, who up to now have had to win a game in Champions League qualifying in order to go into Europa League qualifying after a defeat.
There will be also be a preliminary round introduced at the start of Champions League (played as a knockout mini-tournament with four teams). One team will emerge from that and enter the first round of qualifiers. An Europa League preliminary round will include 16 teams playing in two-legged ties with eight winners progressing.
Beyond the group stages, the format of the two competitions remain as is.