The Women’s Super League will receive a third Champions League place when the competition is expanded to include a last-16 group stage for the 2021-22 season.
Currently, the top two teams in England qualify. This season that meant that Chelsea, who reached last season’s Champions League semi-final before losing 3-2 to the eventual winners Lyon over two legs, missed out after they finished third in the WSL behind Arsenal and Manchester City.
For the 2021-22 season, each of the top six nations – calculated according to Uefa’s coefficients – will receive a third team, and TV rights and sponsorship from the group stage onwards will be marketed centrally, rather than just the final. Countries ranked seventh to 16th will have two entrants.
Managers have been calling for a revamp. Last month Chelsea’s Emma Hayes said of a third spot for England: “That needs to happen. The same for Germany, though, and probably France.”
Arsenal’s Joe Montemurro said in September that a group stage was a logical step. “It’s only fair to the clubs that do invest in women’s football that they should be given the opportunity to be in the Champions League from a revenue perspective. And once you get a say a third team from, say, England, making the the Champions League group stages there’s a revenue coming back. That’s more money coming into the game.”
Uefa’s president, Aleksander Ceferin, said: “By guaranteeing teams more matches against their elite rivals, we believe that the group structure will raise the quality of the women’s game even more.”
Qualification for the group stage will come through two rounds. Round one will see teams play a series of mini-tournaments, with semi-finals, a third-place match and a final. Then pre-qualified clubs will play teams from round one in round two over two legs to determine entry into the last-16 group stage. The top two finishers of the four groups of fours teams will progress to the quarter-finals.