The Champions League Qualification Myth

Over the last weeks I, way too often, had to read that Bayern could end up playing against Villarreal, Benfica or Roma in the CL qualification round. That’s not true. Keep on reading if you wanna know why.

First of all, this is all hypothetical as we don’t know yet whether it’ll be Bayern or Hannover claiming the 3rd place on May 14, 5.20 pm local time. It actually changes a lot but I’ll come back to that later.

If Bayern makes it, they have to wait until the fourth and final qualification stage before they can/have to play (that’s the same for Hannover, by the way). But remember: in the UEFA, clubs are not all equal. What sounds like a lame criticizing joke is the truth as the teams are separated into champions and non-champions. This was one of the more successful tries to give more clubs from smaller countries the chance to play in the CL as they don’t have to play against an European giant from one of the big leagues in qualification.

To visualize, here are the clubs that played in the final qualification round last season, separated into champions and non-champions.


  • FC Basel (Switzerland)
  • RSC Anderlecht (Belgium)
  • FC Copenhagen (Denmark)
  • Hapoel Tel Aviv (Israel)
  • Sparta Praha (Czech Rep.)
  • Rosenborg BK (Norway)
  • RB Salzburg (Austria)
  • FK Partizan (Serbia)
  • MSK Zilina (Slovakia)
  • Sheriff Tiraspol (Moldova)


  • Sevilla (Spain)
  • Werder Bremen (Germany)
  • Zenit (Russia)
  • Tottenham (England)
  • Ajax (Netherlands)
  • Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine)
  • Braga (Portugal)
  • Sampdoria (Italy)
  • AJ Auxerre (France)
  • Young Boys Bern (Switzerland)

Compare these two pairings, one from the champions path and one from the non-champions path:

Sparta Praha v MSK Zilina

Werder Bremen v Sampdoria

Now you should know why that system benefits teams from weaker leagues.

I know what you’re thinking now: “Doesn’t this confirm what you just denied, that Bayern will have to play against another famous club?” Don’t jump to that conclusion, I haven’t told you the full story yet.

In addition to the champion separation, the clubs within one path are also seeded. If you want to know how that works, it’s simple: check the UEFA Team Ranking. The five highest clubs are seeded, the other five are not.

Going back to last season, that lead to the following seedings in the champions path:


  • Sevilla (108.951)
  • Werder Bremen (94.841)
  • Zenit (61.258)
  • Tottenham (56.371)
  • Ajax (55.309)


  • Dynamo Kyiv (42.910)
  • Braga (39.659)
  • Sampdoria (30.867)
  • AJ Auxerre (19.748)
  • Young Boys Bern (7.675)

This meant that for example Sevilla couldn’t play against Bremen or Auxerre couldn’t play against Young Boys. Simple, isn’t it?

When you look at this year’s Team Ranking, you’ll notice that Bayern is 4th. Since Man United, Barcelona and Chelsea will directly qualify for the CL, it is 100% sure that Bayern will be seeded. However, the aforementioned teams are all ranked high (Villarreal 22nd, Benfica 17th, AS Roma 16th) so it’s all but sure that they will be seeded teams as well, hence it’s impossible that Bayern will have to play against them. The realistic worst-case scenario for Bayern would be Manchester City (although it’s, as of now, not possible to say whether they will be seeded or unseeded). Talented teams that will most likely be unseeded are Rubin Kazan, Lazio or Udinese (what, as strange as it may sound, means that Bayern fans should cheer for AS Roma to grab the 4th place). Still, that sounds a lot better than FCB v Villarreal, doesn’t it?

To finish this, let me come back to Hannover: Since they’re not even listed in the UEFA Team Ranking, it is 100% sure that they’d be unseeded and thus would have to play against one of these giants.

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One Response to The Champions League Qualification Myth

  1. Pingback: [updated] Champions League Qualification Update | Red Robbery

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