The soccer news starts with an example of why the revamped UEFA Champions League might not appeal to some parts of Europe. First a reminder. Starting this season, the top four leagues in Europe put four teams each directly into the group stage. The 5th highest ranked league gets three places in the group stage, with the 6th getting two. A quick look at the coefficient table has Spain’s La Liga top, followed by the Premier League, Serie A, and the Bundesliga. France is 5th, meaning three group stage places. Russia is 6th with two. Only the champions from the 7th-11th placed leagues start in the group stage. For the rest, it’s qualifying.
So let’s consider Portugal, the 7th-place league in Europe. Last season, they were the 5th-place team ahead of France and Russia. That meant two spots in the group stage. This season, Porto takes the automatic spot with 2nd-place Benfica starting in the Third Qualifying Round. They’re playing for one of the six remaining spots in a group stage that’s now crowded with automatic qualifiers. Portugal was the 5th-place league from 2013-14 through last season, showing how quickly the coefficient can change and what it means for leagues under UEFA’s new setup.
With all due respect to France’s Ligue 1, they’re not any more of a European power league than Portugal’s Primeira Liga. They’re also directly benefiting from PSG’s spending spree and Marseille making the Europa League final. That’s the difference between three teams in the Champions League group stage and one. There’s certainly a point that this raises the stakes across both European tournaments. There’s also a point that it raises the same frustrations we’ve already seen from the leagues outside of Europe’s big four.
UEFA’s coefficient only counts what happens in their competitions. It’s two points for winning and one for drawing in the Champions League and Europa League with bonuses for advancing in those competitions over the last five seasons. Five points for making the knockout round of the Champions League, a one point bonus in both competitions for advancing to the quarterfinals, semifinals, and final. Champions League qualification is worth four points.
For everybody else, it’s simple math. Add in the other automatic group stage spots, and there are already 26 teams in the group stage. That means six advancing from the playoff rounds that started in July. It also means that the four leagues with four teams in the group stage have guaranteed games. It’s four teams playing six games each. That gives them the advantage in accumulating the points necessary to stay there. It’s an interesting way to continue to push the door closed.
Also in the soccer news, in the Copa MX group stage, Joe Corona subbed out in the 76th minute of Club America’s 3-0 home win over Veracruz. Emanuel Aguilera scored in the 40th with Veracruz going a man down in the 72nd. Aguilera converted the ensuing penalty two minutes later. Henry Martin finished off the goals in the 79th. Jorge Villafana wasn’t involved in Santos Laguna’s 2-0 loss at Pachuca.
Goal’s Jamie Smith with Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge pointing to PSG and Manchester City for inflating the transfer market. FourFourTwo’s Richard Jolly makes the case for Chelsea under new manager Maurizio Sarri. The Guardian’s Marina Hyde gives Manchester United some advice on how to get the most out of their manager.
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