Many Americans, focused on football and basketball, remain oblivious to an ongoing sports competition that has taken the world by storm.
The UEFA Champions League, currently underway, is the most-watched sporting event in the world. The final of the Champions League is expected to get around 380 million viewers, a number which dwarfs the Super Bowl’s average of only 114 million viewers.
This annual tournament between European soccer clubs showcases the world’s best soccer teams and players. The tournament starts around the beginning of September and will end May 26 of next year, so it’s not too late to catch some of the action.
Major teams in the competition are current champions Real Madrid CF, FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Manchester United, and many others. Alongside these important teams are some of the biggest players in the world, who will also be competing in the tournament, like Ballon D’or, and FIFA’s best player of the year, Cristiano Ronaldo.
The tournament starts with 32 teams who compete to qualify based on where they placed on their league table or if they win the Europa League. All the teams that finished third in their league go on to the Europa League, which is similar to the Champions League, but on a smaller scale. After qualifying, the 32 teams are put into four team groups where they play six home and away games in a round robin format.
After the six-game group portion of the competition, which is played over a five-month period, the top two teams from each group move onto the knockout stages. In the knockout portion, the teams play two games, one home and home away. The teams play in this two-game format until they reach the final. In the final they play one 90-minute game where it is determined who will win the tournament.
For this year’s tournament there are a variety of teams, some with world-class reputations like Real Madrid and Barcelona, and some others that aren’t exactly known for their skill like Qarabag and APOEL Nicosia.
The games are hosted in the individual countries home stadiums, which have become major parts of each team’s reputation. NK Maribor, a small team out of Slovenia, has the smallest stadium, Ljudski Vrt, which can hold up to 12,702 fans. Although they are fairly small, many consider Maribor as having some of the biggest hearts in the tournament.
In contrast, Borussia Dortmunds stadium Westfalenstadion can hold up to 81,360 people, and their fans make sure you know that they’re there. They all hold up colored banners and they make the whole stadium yellow and black, Dortmund’s team colors, making it a pretty intimidating stadium to walk into.
There is currently a lot of debate about which team will come out on top this year. Many believe that current champions Real Madrid, which is featured regularly in the final of the tournament, as well as Barcelona and Juventus, have some of the best odds this year.
But one underdog in the tournament is Manchester United, which is slowly rebuilding their team after the loss of their legendary coach, Sir Alex Ferguson. Since the departure of Ferguson, Manchester United hasn’t qualified for the Champions League in four years, so their qualifying for this year’s tournament is definitely a step in the right direction for their future.
Manchester United will be relying on some of their older players to show some leadership to the new squad. They’re also waiting for veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to return from injury after tearing his ACL back in March.
Another team which some feel is going through a rough patch is Barcelona since they lost one of their key players, Neymar, in the transfer window for a world record transfer fee of just over $220 million. Although they’ve lost one of their star players, Barcelona is still expected to make a strong run in the tournament. They will be relying on the experience of players like Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta to lead their team to another title.
The UEFA Champions League is certain to be action-packed and is a much anticipated event for soccer fans all around the world. Many of the game are being broadcast live, with Fox Sports being one place to watch the games in America. For details, go to