The UEFA Champions League is the premier soccer club competition in Europe, featuring all the top teams from around the continent. The tournament began as the European Cup in 1955 and is played alongside domestic leagues, running from August to May. The tournament begins with a group stage in a mini-league format, with two sides progressing from every group into the knockout stage of the competition.
Group Stage Knock Out
The teams that qualify for the Champions League are split into eight groups of four and play each team in their group once at home and once away. The top two sides from each group progress into the Last 16; the third placed teams move into the Europa League. The team that finishes bottom of each group are eliminated from European football for that season.
Points are earned over the six games, with three points awarded for a win and one for a draw. If two sides are even on points at the end of the group stage, then their head-to-head record determines who goes through. If that record is even, the side who has scored more goals away from home in the two matches between the two sides in question progresses. If necessary, the final factor may come down overall goal differential over the course of the six games or the teams' UEFA coefficient points for the past five seasons.
The Last 16, Quarterfinals and Semifinals
The Last 16 of the competition becomes a straight knockout played over two games, with one at home and one away. The quarter finals and semifinals follow the same process. The team who scores the most goals over the course of the two games will progress into the next stage. If the goals tallies are even between teams, then the side who scored the most goals away from home will progress on the Away Goals Rule. If the away goals are even during full time in the second game, the teams will play a 30-minute period of extra time. If the away side were to score in this period, the home team would have to score twice thanks to the benefit of the Away Goals Rule. However, if neither side were to score, knockout comes down to a penalty shoot-out.
Unlike the rest of the tournament, the final of the Champions League is decided on one game at a neutral venue. As a result, the Away Goals Rule does not apply. If the score is tied after 90 minutes, the game goes to 30 minutes extra time, then a penalty shoot-out if needed.