MONACO (AP) — There will be 14 winners of the Champions League, or the old European Cup, in the 32-team group stage draw Thursday after PSV Eindhoven advanced in the qualifying playoffs.
PSV, the European champion in 1988, beat Rangers 5-1 in their playoff second leg Wednesday to complete a 7-3 aggregate score.
Royal Antwerp had not played in the competition since 1957 yet also sealed its place in the draw by winning 2-1 at AEK Athens. The champion of Belgium advanced 3-1 on aggregate.
Copenhagen completed the lineup with a 1-1 draw at home to competition debutant Raków Częstochowa having already won 1-0 in Poland.
PSV’s single European title means winners of 48 of the 68 editions of Europe’s most prized club title will enter the draw. It includes record 14-time champion Real Madrid and defending champion Manchester City, which won its first title in June.
This Champions League is the 20th and last in the familiar format of eight round robin groups of four teams each, sending the top two into a 16-team knockout bracket.
Next year the Champions League expands to 36 teams, playing eight games instead of six, ranked in a single standings. The top eight will advance direct to the round of 16. Teams ranked No. 9 through 24 go into a knockout playoffs round to decide the other eight places in the last-16.
The final edition in the established format starts Sept. 19 and group-stage games finish Dec. 13. The knockout stage starts in February and reaches the final at Wembley Stadium in London on June 1.
UEFA has 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) prize money for the rest of the competition. Each of the 32 gets a basic 15.64 million ($17.1 million) plus shares of a 600 million euros ($656 million) fund distributed according to clubs’ historic record in UEFA competitions.
Top-ranked Real Madrid’s share will be about 36.4 million euros ($40 million) and about 1.14 million euros ($1.25 million) to the lowest-ranked team, Lens, which has not played in European soccer for 16 years.
UEFA also will pay teams 2.8 million euros ($3.1 million) per win and 930,000 euros ($1 million) per draw in the group stage, escalating payments for advancing through each knockout round, plus a share of the TV money paid by rights holders in their home country.
Real Madrid was the highest earner with 133 million euros ($145 million) from UEFA when it won the 2022 title — the last figures published by UEFA. Moldovan champion Sheriff’s 23.7 million euros ($26 million) was the lowest UEFA payout that season.
Shakhtar Donetsk has had several adopted home cities in Ukraine and abroad since losing access to its stadium in 2014 because of Russian-backed conflict and then war in the Donbas region.
Last season Shakhtar used Legia Warsaw’s stadium in Poland for its three “home” games in the group stage.
Shakhtar will now play in Hamburg at the Volksparkstadion that is one of Germany’s host venues for the 2024 European Championship. The club said last week it already sold 30,000 ticket packages.
Russian clubs, including champion Zenit St. Petersburg, are banned for the second straight season.
UEFA has had rules for more than 20 years limiting owners from having decisive influence over two or more clubs which can meet in the same European competition. They were designed to protect the integrity of games on the field.
Still, the trend toward multi-club ownership projects has intensified since a UEFA ruling in 2017 let Leipzig and Salzburg both enter the Champions League despite sharing deep ties to the Red Bull brand. The two clubs are in separate draw pots Thursday and can meet in the group stage.
Paris Saint-Germain can be drawn in the same group as Braga despite taking a 22% ownership stake in the Portuguese club last year.
CLUB WORLD CUP
The 32 teams also are playing for entry to — and more prize money from – the inaugural expanded FIFA Club World Cup in June 2025 hosted by the United States.
Europe will send 12 teams to that 32-team lineup including the past three Champions League title holders — Man City, Real Madrid and Chelsea — plus the winner of this edition.
Other places should go to teams with the best overall record in the four Champions League seasons from 2020-24.
That’s good for consistent performers Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica. Not so much for clubs which missed qualification in at least one recent season, like Manchester United, Arsenal and now Juventus.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer
Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press