Football: Uefa expands League to 32 teams

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The Independent Online
THE CHAMPIONS' League was yesterday formally increased to 32 teams at a meeting of European football's governing body, Uefa, in Lausanne, Switzerland.

It was also confirmed that the Uefa Cup and the European Cup-Winners' Cup will be merged into one tournament from next season. Both switches had been expected as Uefa revamped its plans, following threats by leading clubs to break away and form a rebel competition if changes were not made.

Uefa confirmed that the Champions' League will now be contested by 32 teams instead of 24 and that matches will be played on both Wednesday and Thursday nights.

The defending European champions and the champions and runners-up in Europe's top leagues - Italy, Germany, Spain, France, the Netherlands and England - will all be assured of places in the new Champions' League, along with the champions of Portugal, Greece and the Czech Republic.

The third and fourth-placed teams in the Italian, German and Spanish leagues and the third-placed teams in the French, Dutch and English championships will all enter the new Champions' League at the third qualifying round, along with the runners-up in the Portuguese, Greek and Czech leagues and the champions of Norway, Austria, Russia, Croatia, Turkey and Denmark.

The new-look Uefa Cup will also include England's fourth-placed side and the winners of the FA and Worthington Cups. If England's third-placed club fail to survive the third qualifying round of the Champions' League they will also enter the Uefa Cup.