UEFA Champions League

When it comes to the list of the most lucrative sport events ever, the UEFA Champions League (UCL) occupies the number 1 spot. The tournament is more lucrative than the FIFA World Cup which occupies the 2nd spot. The UEFA Champions League is the most popular football tournament worldwide, which is not really of a surprise. The best European clubs including the best players ever participate in a tournament which is organised on a yearly basis.

Who doesn’t recognize that famous anthem before, during and after a Champions League round? This anthem is officially named “Champions League”. The anthem was written by English composer Tony Britten as requested by UEFA, and is an adaptation of George Frideric Handel’s Zadok the Priest from the Coronation Anthems.  The chorus is sung in UEFA’s 3 official languages: English, French and German. The piece was performed by London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and is sung by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Listen below the full version:

The tournament was for the first time organised in 1955, which was won by Spanish club Real Madrid in the 1956 Final. The current season 2014/2015 is the 60th Champions League season. However from 1955 till 1992 the tournament wasn’t called Champions League, but European Champion Clubs’ Cup (European Cup). After the 1991/1992 season the name changed to UEFA Champions League. So the 2014/2015 season is offically the 23rd Champions League season since it is named Champions League.

The official UEFA Champions League logo

Although the 1991/1992 season was the last to be named European Champion Clubs’ Cup, a new format was introduced. Before the 1991/1992 season, the tournament has always been a straight two-legged knockout tournament. This means 2 teams played against each other twice and the team with the best result advanced. In 1991 the group stage made its first appeareance, but not as we know it now! Of the 32 teams, only 8 would enter the group stage in a later stage of the tournament consisting of 2 groups. The teams play against each other twice on a home and away basis. This is called a double round-robin format and is still used today in group stages. The 2 top teams advanced to the Final. This format continued till the 1993/1994 season, but in this season a one-legged semi-final was included.

Then since the 1994/1995 season there were 4 groups in the group stage. This time the tournament started with this group stage and all participants were divided in the 4 groups. The 2 best teams of each group advanced to a two-legged knockout stage starting with the quarter-finals. Only in the 1997/1998 season the amount of groups increased to 6 and in the 1999/2000 season to 8 groups. Although the Champions League introduced 8 groups in 1999, it is only in the 2003/2004 season where the Round of 16 made its introduction in the two-legged knockout phase. So after the group stage you have the knockout stage which consists of a two-legged Round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final. The format hasn’t changed since and is still used in the current 2014/2015 season.

The UEFA Champions League trophy which reads: “COUPE DES CLUBS CHAMPIONS EUROPÉENS'”

Before 1998 the tournament was only open to the champion club of each country. In the 1997/1998 season the champions of associations ranked 1-7 and reigning Champions League champion were automatically qualified. A second qualification round was introduced, which made it possible for 8 runners-up of associations ranked 1-8  to compete for a spot in the Champions League. The national champions of associations ranked 8–15 also entered the second qualification round.

A third qualification round was introduced in the 1999/2000 season when the number of groups increased to 8. The champions from countries ranked 1–10, and 6 second-placed teams from countries ranked 1–6 entered the tournament automatically, plus 16 winners from the third qualifying round. Different associations were now allowed for multiple teams to join the tournament. This format continued until in the 2009/2010 season 13 champions from associations 1–13 were allowed to enter automatically. Aside the 6 second-placed teams, 3 third-placed teams from associations 1–3 also entered the tournament automatically. 5 winners from the play-off round for champions of national leagues and non-champions (teams that are number 2 and lower) also entered the tournament. This format hasn’t changed and is used in this current Champions League season. Find out how the teams qualified for the 2014/2015 Champions League season!

The UEFA Champions League title-holder badge is worn by the current champion (with the correct year) in the following season’s competition

The current UEFA Champions League champion is Real Madrid. They are also the ones with the most wins in Champions League history: 10 times! Real Madrid won in 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2014. The current all-time top scorer is Spanish player Raúl with 71 goals. He scored 66 goals for Real Madrid and 5 goals for German club Schalke 04.

rela madrid

Real Madrid are the current Champions League champions and have won a record of 10 times!

The Final of the this season’s Champions League will be played at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, Germany on June 6 2014. This is the first season where the vanishing spray is used as was the case in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. 2 teams made their debut: Ludogorets Razgrad from Bulgaria and Malmö FF from Sweden.

berlin final

The official 2014/2015 Champions League Final poster

The groups of the 2014/2015 seasons are:

Group AGroup BGroup CGroup D
JuventusReal MadridZenit Saint PetersburgBorussia Dortmund
Atlético MadridBaselMonacoArsenal
Malmö FFLiverpoolBayer LeverkusenAnderlecht
OlympiacosLudogorets RazgradBenficaGalatasaray

Group EGroup FGroup GGroup H
Bayern MunichParis Saint-GermainChelseaPorto
RomaBarcelonaMariborBATE Borisov
Manchester CityAjaxSchalke 04Shakhtar Donetsk
CSKA MoscowAPOELSporting CPAthletic Bilbao

The official 2014-2015 Champions League match ball: the Adidas Finale

Learn more about the UEFA Champions League!

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