Amid the noise of a breakaway Super League, UEFA has officially rubber-stamped the expansion of the Champions League from 2024.
UEFA's Executive Committee approved the 'Swiss model' competition format on Monday, after it received unanimous approval from the European Clubs Association (ECA) board, and the UEFA Club Competitions Committee on Friday.
It means that, from the 2024/25 season, the Champions League first round will balloon from 32 to 36 teams in a radical new format.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says it will improve the competition, aiming a swipe at his newly-founded opposition, calling them a "tiny, self-selected cartel".
Traditional groups of four teams will be no more. Under the 'Swiss model', teams would still be pegged as first, second, third and fourth seeds.
But instead of being drawn into different groups, all sides would be competing for places in the one division.
Teams would not all play each other, instead a draw would determine ten opponents for each side, with five games at home, and five away.
A top-seeded team, for instance, would play two other top seeds, three each from pots 2 and 3, and two of the fourth seeds.
Points accrued would be registered on one big league table. The top-16 would progress to the knockout phase.
34 out of the 36 teams would qualify through the regular methods, but the final two places will go to the clubs with the highest club coefficient over the last five years that have not qualified for the Champions League group stage but have qualified either for the Champions League qualification phase, the Europa League or the Europa Conference League.
Despite the threat posed by the Super League, and the resignation of high-profile ECA board members, UEFA say the changes "are designed to secure the positive future of European football at every level and meet the evolving needs of all its stakeholders".
Similar format changes will be applied to the UEFA Europa League (eight games per team in the group stage) and the UEFA Conference League (six games per team in the group stage).
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin had earlier threatened bans to clubs and players associated with the Super League.
He said of the new UEFA competition structures, "This new format supports the status and future of the domestic game throughout Europe as well.
"It retains the principle that domestic performance should be the key to qualification and reconfirms the principles of solidarity right through the game and of open competition.
“This evolved format will still keep alive the dream of any team in Europe to participate in the UEFA Champions League thanks to results obtained on the pitch and it will enable long-term viability, prosperity, and growth for everyone in European football, not just a tiny, self-selected cartel.
“Football is a social and cultural treasure, enriched with values, traditions and emotions shared across our continent.
"As the governing body and responsible stewards of the European game, it is UEFA’s role to safeguard this legacy while leading positive future development of football in Europe for national associations, leagues, clubs, players, and fans at every level.
"This is why we had an extensive consultation process over the last two years which led to the unanimous backing of our proposal and we are convinced that these reforms achieve those objectives”.
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