European soccer’s governing body UEFA is set to expand its top-tier Women’s Champions League (UWCL) club competition and add a second-tier tournament for the 2025-26 season.
In its current format, the UWCL features a 16-team group stage, for which only four teams qualify directly by winning their respective domestic leagues.
The remaining teams compete via a playoff system to qualify for the group stage, which regularly sees early exits for some of the biggest sides, as seen by England’s Arsenal and Germany’s Wolfsburg this season.
However, under sweeping changes approved by UEFA’s executive committee at the governing body’s meeting in Hamburg Germany on the weekend (December 2), the competition will expand to 18 teams and change to a league format, with clubs playing three home and away matches each before moving onto a knockout phase.
Spain’s Barcelona are the current UWCL champions after they beat Wolfsburg during last season’s final.
UEFA’s women’s tournaments operate on four-year commercial cycles, with the current period ending after the 2024-25 season, meaning the governing body can only enforce changes ahead of 2025-26.
Changes to the UWCL mirror the 2024-25 format of the men’s Champions League. From next season, the UCL will take on a new single-league structure instead of being split into multiple groups from which teams qualify for the knockout stage. That competition is also expanding from 32 to 36 teams and will incorporate 189 matches instead of the current 125.
The committee also approved the launch of a second-tier European club competition for women’s clubs for the 2025-26 season, with details on the format and calendar to be released later today (December 4).
Men’s soccer currently has three tiers of European club competitions – the Champions League, the Europa League, and the Europa Conference League. Women’s soccer, meanwhile, has only featured one European club competition since 2001, meaning this represents a significant addition.
Other decisions announced by UEFA include the match schedule for the Women’s Euros in Switzerland in 2025, with the final to be played at St Jakob-Park in Basel on July 27, as well as the prize money for the men’s Euros in Germany next year, which will remain the same as the last tournament.
A total of €331 million ($360 million) will be distributed, with the champions receiving up to €28.25 million.
UK pay-TV broadcaster TNT Sports (formerly BT Sport) shows one game per match week from the group stage of the UWCL, as well as all games from the quarter-finals onwards as part of a sub-licensing deal struck with rightsholder DAZN, the global subscription streaming platform.
DAZN, meanwhile, covers all 61 games from the UWCL under its global rights remit. For this season, the streaming platform confirmed it would keep its coverage of the UWCL group stages free to watch across most global territories. Every group stage fixture will be free across most of DAZN’s international markets, except the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and China.