The race for five places in next season's Champions League

Klopp: Only great teams left in the Europa League (1:33)

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp says his side will need to be at their best to beat Atalanta in the Europa League quarterfinal. (1:33)

Two leagues will be rewarded with an extra place in next season's Champions League based on performance in Europe this season, all part of the revamp to expand it to a 36-team competition -- but who is likely to benefit?

With the knockout stages of the Champions League (UCL), Europa League (UEL) and Europa Conference League (UECL) at the quarterfinal stage, we're starting to get a very clear picture of which leagues could get the two places -- but it could yet go down to the wire.

This article will be updated throughout the season to track the race for the extra spots.

How does it work?

It's about the best average coefficient of all teams taking part in Europe for each country. The two leagues with the best score get an extra place.

Each win is worth two coefficient points, a draw gets you one, and you get nothing for a defeat.

If a match goes to extra time, the score after 120 minutes is used. Penalties are not taken into account if the game is drawn, as they are used to determine the tie rather than the individual match.

There are also bonus points for getting to certain stages, which help give extra prominence to those teams who do well in the higher-profile competitions.

Champions League bonus points
4 - Group stage participation
5 - Round of 16
1 - QF, SF, final

Europa League bonus points
4 - Group winners
2 - Group runners-up
1 - Round of 16, QF, SF, final

Europa Conference League bonus points
2 - Group winners
1 - Group runners-up
1 - SF, final

The points gained by all clubs are added together, and that total score is divided by the number of clubs a country has in Europe in the season. That gives the coefficient average.

For example, if a country has 35 coefficient points and seven teams in Europe, its score is 5.00 for the table (35 / 7 = 5.00.)

So wins aren't worth more in the Champions League?

No, the coefficient system is designed to assess the overall strength of leagues. Wins are the same in all competitions, otherwise it would be impossible for those leagues with few or no teams in the UCL group stage to move up the coefficient ranking.

The bonus points serve two purposes: firstly, to give weight to the strength of the competitions on a sliding scale, and second to provide points to those teams taking part in the UCL who might get few positive results.

In fact, it's better for leagues to have some teams drop down into the UEL for the knockout rounds. Bonus points might be lower in the UEL, but each two-legged tie has five points up for grabs (four for the result and one for progressing to the next round). If a team stays in the UCL, they might not get past the round of 16 and have little chance of adding to the country's coefficient through wins.

Won't this just turn out to be extra places for two top leagues?

If we look back at the previous five seasons, England and Spain take seven of the 10 slots, with Italy and Germany one each. Only in 2021-22 did one of the countries with fewer than four teams in the Champions League (the Netherlands) finish in the top two of average coefficient.

So yes, history tells us that it's highly likely two of the top leagues will have five places in next season's Champions League.

2022-23: England and Italy
2021-22: England and the Netherlands
2020-21: England and Spain
2019-20: Spain and Germany
2018-19: England and Spain

Right, so who's in contention this season?

This is the top 10 as of April 11.

1. Italy, 18.428
2. Germany, 16.785
3. England, 16.750
4. Spain, 15.062
5. France, 14.750
6. Belgium, 13.600
7. Czechia, 13.500
8. Turkey, 11.500
9. Portugal, 11.000
10. Netherlands, 10.000

Italy is now all but assured of one of the two places with four teams active and guaranteed one club in the semifinals of the Europa League.

Germany is back up into second, and a raft of poor results for English clubs has swung the pendulum back towards the Bundesliga.

England has five teams still active, with only two of those in the UCL. Germany has three left in, but two are in the UCL. Points are easier to come by outside the UCL.

Liverpool's 3-0 home to defeat to Atalanta, and favourable results for German clubs against English opposition, means this could go right to the wire.

Spain and France are huge outsiders.

OK, so what's the state of play for the leagues?

A league needs to keep as many teams as possible still active deep into the knockout rounds. The fewer teams in European competition, the less chance there is to score coefficient points to compete for the top two.

Results will be harder to come by with the fixtures becoming increasingly difficult.

It's even more important for England and Spain, who started with eight teams in Europe; each win is worth slightly less to the coefficient (as the score is divided by eight rather than seven for Germany and Italy.)

1. ITALY, 18.428

Atalanta, AC Milan and AS Roma are active in the UEL, while Fiorentina advanced in the UECL.

Internazionale, Lazio and Napoli were knocked out of the UCL in the round of 16.

Through to quarterfinals: 4
Out: 3

Serie A looks to be sitting pretty despite losing all three of its UCL teams that made the knockouts.

An all-Italian quarterfinal in the UEL (AS Roma vs. AC Milan) means Italy are sure to lose a side, and it reduces their maximum coefficient, but Atalanta thrashed Liverpool and look good for the semifinals.

England vs. Germany clashes in the UCL and UEL should mean Italy is safe in the top two.


2. GERMANY, 16.785

Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are in the UCL quarterfinals, but RB Leipzig were eliminated.

Bayer Leverkusen remain active in the UEL.

Union Berlin, Eintracht Frankfurt and SC Freiburg are out.

Through to quarterfinals: 3
Out: 4

Germany are back in second place and is very much still in the race despite two of its three remaining teams being in the UCL.

It may well come down to Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich (UCL, first leg 2-2) and Bayer Leverkusen vs. West Ham United (UEL, first leg 2-0). Germany will surely need both to go through to finish in the top two ahead of England. And if Bayern do win, they might then face Manchester City in the semifinals.

Germany's two Champions League teams cannot meet until the final, so its maximum coefficient isn't impacted by country clashes.


3. ENGLAND, 16.750

Arsenal and Manchester City in the UCL quarterfinals.

West Ham United and Liverpool are still in the UEL, but Brighton & Hove Albion are out.

Aston Villa are in the quarterfinals of the UECL.

Manchester United and Newcastle United were knocked out after finishing bottom of their UCL groups.

Through to quarterfinals: 5
Out: 3

With five teams left in Europe, and three of those outside the UCL, England is favourites to get an extra place -- but the quarterfinals aren't going well.

But the battle is far from over due to Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich (UCL, first leg 2-2) and Bayer Leverkusen vs. West Ham United (UEL, first leg 2-0). Manchester City must also get past Real Madrid in the UCL.

Arsenal and Man City could meet in the UCL semifinals, so the maximum coefficient is now reduced.

Liverpool will have to produce a stunning comeback after losing 3-0 to Atalanta at Anfield, while Villa only have a 2-1 first-leg lead vs. Lille.


4. FRANCE, 14.750

Paris Saint-Germain are in the UCL quarterfinals.

Marseille continue in the UEL round of 16, but Lens, Stade Rennais and Toulouse are out.

In the UECL, Lille got past Austrian club Sturm Graz.

Through to quarterfinals: 3
Out: 3

With only three teams left in Europe, France's chances of making the top two are low but it's still possible. Lille must knock out Aston Villa in the quarterfinals of the UECL.

However, all three of its remaining clubs lost their first-leg ties.


5. SPAIN, 15.062

Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid are still in the UCL, but Villarreal lost to Marseille in the UEL round of 16.

Osasuna failed to qualify for the UECL, while Sevilla were knocked out in the UCL and Real Betis were eliminated in the knockout playoff round of the UECL.

Real Sociedad fell to PSG in the UCL round of 16.

Through to quarterfinals: 3
Out: 5

Osasuna's failure in UECL qualifying severely affected Spain's chances of making the top two.

With Spain having all three of its remaining clubs in the Champions League, it's now almost impossible to challenge for the top two from here.


How the quarterfinals and semifinals can change everything

Champions League

Atlético Madrid vs. Borussia Dortmund
to play the winners of
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Barcelona

Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich
to play the winners of
Real Madrid vs. Manchester City

Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich is one of two ties which will go a long way to deciding who will get an extra place. It's back in the balance.

The potential all-English semifinal could also have an impact, as could a Bayern Munich vs. Manchester City semifinal.

With Bayern and Dortmund in opposite sides of the draw, the possibility of an all-German final remains.

Europa League

Benfica vs. Marseille
to play the winners of
Liverpool vs. Atalanta

AS Roma vs. AC Milan
to play the winners of
Bayer Leverkusen vs. West Ham United

Once again it's the Germany vs. England tie of Bayer Leverkusen vs. West Ham United that's key. This time the two English clubs are in opposite sides of the draw.

While there is an all-Italian quarterfinal in the UEL, the two Germany vs. England ties should ensure it gets one of the two places. Germany will have to win both to have a real chance of making the top two.

Europa Conference League

Viktoria Plzen vs. Fiorentina
to play the winners of
Club Brugge vs. PAOK

Aston Villa vs. Lille
to play the winners of
Olympiacos vs. Fenerbahce

Aston Villa will hope to build up England's points in this competition, with Germany having no representative left.

Lille would have to knock out Villa to keep France's slim hopes alive.

When will we find out who gets the extra places?

In many seasons it may be obvious in March, once we know which leagues have teams through to the quarterfinals of the three European competitions. It's closer this time, but if Arsenal and West Ham both go through then we'll know at the end of the quarterfinals.

However, the 2019-20 season shows that it can go right down to the wire. Germany didn't overtake the Premier League for second place until Bayern Munich beat Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in the final of the Champions League. If that's repeated this season, we wouldn't know which league gets the second additional spot until the UCL final takes place June 1.

It would leave two clubs in the domestic leagues praying for the right result in the final. In 2019-20, Bayer Leverkusen and Leicester City finished fifth in Germany and England respectively. Leverkusen would have needed Bayern to win the UCL final to get the place, while Leicester required Bayern to lose the match.

We could also hypothetically see a situation where, for instance, Arsenal winning the Champions League could hand a fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur a place in the Champions League.

What's the maximum number of places in the UCL and in Europe?

Under the old system, a maximum of five clubs from one association could play in the Champions League. It meant that in the unlikely event teams from the same league won the Champions League and Europa League, yet both finished outside the UCL places domestically, then fourth would have to surrender their place and drop into the UEL.

But from 2024-25 the cap has been removed and it will be possible for seven Premier League teams to get a place in the UCL: The top four, fifth through league performance in Europe, and the winners of the UCL and the UEL.

It would also technically be possible to have 11 Premier League teams in Europe: The usual allocation of seven, plus the extra Champions League place and the titleholders of all three European competitions (if they finished outside a European position.) UEFA has yet to take a decision on a maximum number in Europe from one association, though sources have indicated that it may be capped at 10 if this very unlikely scenario occurs, with a place in the UEL taken away.

Who gets the extra place?

If we assume the extra spots will go to one of the top leagues, it means fifth place will enter the Champions League and it will have eight (rather than seven) places in Europe. Other European berths drop down a place.

If the Premier League gets it, the access will be:

Champions League: 1-5
Europa League: 6, FA Cup winners
Europa Conference League: Carabao Cup winners

If the cup winners finish in the top 6, the European places could drop to 7th and 8th in the table.

If LaLiga, the Bundesliga or Serie A gets it, the access will be:

Champions League: 1-5
Europa League: 6, Cup winners
Europa Conference League: 7

If a team wins the UEL but doesn't qualify for the UCL domestically, that league could have six places in the UCL -- the five places to the leagues plus the UEL titleholders as an additional.

Which teams would benefit right now?

Right now, Borussia Dortmund are fifth in the Bundesliga, with Roma holding that spot in Serie A.