Women’s Champions League: What we know about next season
Manchester United Women secured a Champions League berth for the first time in the team’s history on Sunday.
The Reds will compete in Europe’s elite club cup competition in 2023/24 after clinching a top-three position in the Women’s Super League, following the 2-1 victory over Manchester City.
Marc Skinner’s side, who remain in the hunt for the WSL title after the derby triumph, have enjoyed a memorable term, with the weekend’s win creating an unassailable nine-point gap to fourth-placed City, ensuring European qualification ahead of the final round of league fixtures on Saturday.
How United Women can still win the leagueArticle
Lucia Garcia’s late derby winner means the destiny of the WSL title will be decided on the final day, this Saturday.
Ahead of then, we’ve been looking at the answers to some of the key questions that you may have been pondering about the Women’s Champions League, as we prepare to play in the tournament for the first time…
HOW DOES THE COMPETITION WORK?
A 16-team group stage is the centrepiece, in which the clubs will be split into groups of four, playing each other home and away before the top two at the end of the stage advance to the quarter-finals. However, only four sides – the tournament holders and the champions in the three highest-ranked associations (France, Germany and Spain) - will automatically progress to this point.
The other 12 spots are filled via two routes: the champions path (seven qualifiers) and the league path (five qualifiers). Both are made up of two rounds, with the first requiring clubs to win a four-team knockout tournament to progress. The next stage consists of two-legged head-to-head ties for a place in the group stage.
The Reds will go straight into round two, as a result of Sunday’s win ensuring that we will either be the champions or runners-up in this season’s Women’s Super League. Only the third-place qualifiers from the WSL – either Arsenal or Manchester City - will play in round one.
However, with our final finishing position in the league to be decided on Saturday, it is unknown as of yet whether we will go into the champions (first place) or the league path (second place).
WHO COULD WE PLAY?
Due to the fact that we can still go into either path, and that the round-one fixtures are still to be played, there isn’t yet a definitive list of teams that we could be drawn against. However, there are several sides that already know they will begin their campaign in the second round of either the champions or the league route.
In the champions side, Rosengard and Slavia Prague (winners of the top flights in Sweden and the Czech Republic respectively) will be joined by either United or Chelsea, and the 11 round-one qualifiers in that section of the competition.
Meanwhile, in the league pathway, the WSL’s runners-up will be in with Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, BK Hacken, Sparta Prague, the second-place finisher in the German Frauen-Bundesliga and the four progressors from the previous round on that side.
The second-round draw is set to take place on Friday 15 September 2023, less than a week after the first-round matches have concluded and just over a fortnight before the opening weekend of the new WSL season.
WHEN ARE THE ROUND-TWO GAMES?
The first legs are poised to be contested across 10 and 11 October 2023, before the return fixtures on 18 and 19 October.
This season, the same stage of the competition took place over two midweeks in September, with the dates later next term due to the upcoming Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
WHAT IS BEYOND THAT?
Should we win our tie, the group-stage draw will be something to look out for, and that is scheduled at present for Friday 20 October. The phase then will be played out across six matchdays between November and January, before the knockouts take place from March to May.
The final, set to be hosted at Athletic Bilbao’s San Mames Stadium, is still to have its date confirmed, but it has been earmarked for either the 24, 25 or 26 May 2024 by UEFA.