Manchester United could be forced to drop out of the League Cup in two years’ time in order to play more European games, it was revealed yesterday.
With rumours of a breakaway European superleague refusing to die down, it seems that UEFA are planning to fight fire with fire and are planning a complete overhaul of the Champions League.
This would leave top teams with more European games to play, leaving the fixture calendar too crowded for them to take part in the League Cup, and possibly reducing the number of FA Cup replays as well.
According to The Times, UEFA will present a new ‘Swiss system’ format to European officials over the next two weeks that abolishes the group stage as we know it and replaces it with one big league table of 32 sides.
Each team will then be drawn to play ten other teams, five at home and five away. The draw will be seeded so that each team will play at least two top seeds, three second and third level and two bottom seeds.
The sixteen teams finishing in the top half of the table would then go into the knockout stage, with the team finishing top facing the team finishing 16th, the team finishing second facing the team finishing 15th, and so on.
UEFA hope that the new format will answer calls to see more matches between bigger clubs at an earlier stage of the competition and reduce the number of ‘meaningless’ fixtures. The fact that league position will determine the strength of a team’s next opponent in the knockout stage should also make almost every result important, whereas the current rules mean that as soon as a team has enough points to qualify from a group, their remaining games are dead rubbers.
The new system is expected to come into force in 2024.
Former United chief executive David Gill, who is now England’s UEFA vice-president and treasurer of the European governing body, admitted ‘that there were some “exciting” proposals’ but would not discuss it further.
In October, it was revealed that many of Europe’s biggest clubs – including United – were planning to break away from UEFA and form their own European Super League, with FIFA not ruling out the idea of supporting it. The financial effects of Covid reportedly led the clubs to look at ways in which revenues could be increased and playing a larger number of games against other big sides – and having rights over the broadcasting of their own matches – is an attractive option.
UEFA will hope that their new format will give the clubs enough of what they want to keep them happy and fend off the proposed breakaway movement.
Whichever side wins, it seems that European football is set to change radically within the next three years and that United will be playing the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Benfica much more often than the likes of Burnley, Brighton and Bournemouth.
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