Champions League: All the Basics to Know

The UEFA Champions League began in October and has been airing on CBS All-Access. This tournament features the biggest names in professional football on their path to the Champions League final. Here is the important information to know about the highly-anticipated matchups.

The UEFA Champions League features the top teams from Europe's club leagues. Though there are American players that make the trip overseas to take part in the tournament. 79 teams initially vied to earn a spot in the 32-team group stage, with some playing their way into the tournament during the qualifying rounds in August and September. This stage came to an end in December and set the schedule for the round of 16 knockout matches.

This second stage of the Champions League begins on Feb. 16 and features 16 teams. These squads face off in February and into March, ultimately determining the quarterfinals matchups in April. The semifinals take place in late April and into May, setting the stage for the main event. The final match of the UEFA Champions League takes place on May 29, 2021, at Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey.

The UEFA Champions League was originally introduced in 1955 as the European Champions Clubs' Cup. The first iteration featured a knockout tournament only open to the champions of Europe's domestic leagues. The winner would become the European club champion. The competition changed in 1992 and added a round-robin group stage. The Champions League began allowing entrants from other countries in 1997.

Since the change took place, the Champions League has only allowed countries to send just one champion to the tournament. However, the English Premier League can provide four teams due to its overall strength. For example, the 2020-21 Champions League features Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea.


Of the teams featured in the Champions League, Real Madrid holds the record for the most victories. The club has 13 titles total and seven in the modern format. Real Madrid has also been the runner-up three separate times. Barcelona has won the title four times while Milan has three. Manchester rounds out the top four with two titles.

Given the number of big names featured on the pitch, it's expected that they would make a historical impact. For example, Lionel Messi sits in a tie with Luiz Adriano for the most goals scored in a match (five). Adriano scored his goals during the 2014-15 season in Shakhtar's match against BATE Borisov. Messi scored his goals for Barcelona during a match against Bayer Leverkusen in 2011-12.