The UEFA Champions Leagueis the premier soccer competition in Europe, in which all of the leagues in the continent – from Spain’s La Liga to the Turkish Super Lig – send their best teams (ranked in terms of how they finished in their respective league competitions the previous season) to compete in the Europe-wide tournament. The main appeal of this competition is that collects the best clubs from every league in Europe that have proven themselves in their respective leagues. This kind of internationality is something that is unseen in the eye of the American sports mainstream. The Champions’ League is so prestigious and financially rewarding, that teams prioritize the competition over other league matches and tournaments to ensure the best opportunity to advance in the tournament.
The competition begins with a traditional group stage format, in which 32 teams are split into 8 groups of 4, and play in a round-robin format. The two top teams from each group advance into the knockout rounds, while the third team from each group earns a berth in the UEFA Europa League, a second-tier, similarly formatted tournament. Once the knockout stage is reached, the competition switches to a two legged format, allowing each elimination round to host games in the home stadiums of each team. At this stage, the team with the highest aggregate of goals scored across both games advances to the next round. In the event of an aggregate draw, an “away-goals rule” is implemented, which dictates that the team who scored the most goals in the other team’s home ground advances to the next round. This, paired with a monetary reward system based on the amount of games won, assures that the matches are competitive and aggressive, making it the most highly-watched and competitive club tournament in the world.
Real Madrid: The club is the world’s richest football club in terms of revenue, with an annual turnover of €513 million and the most valuable, worth €3.3billion according to Forbes. They are the club to have won the competition most times, 9 times overall.
FC Barcelona: The world’s second-richest football club in terms of revenue, with an annual turnover of €483 million and the third most valuable (according to Forbes), worth €2.6billion. The club has a long-standing rivalry with Real Madrid; matches between the two teams are referred to as “El Clásico”.
Bayern Munich: Bayern Munich is the biggest sports club in Germany and the fourth biggest football club in the world, generating €368.4 million in 2012 according to Forbes. Bayern is a membership-based club with more than 185,000 members. There are also 3,202 officially-registered fan clubs with 231,197 members.
Borussia Dortmund: The dark horse of the tournament, Dortmund is the second biggest sports club in Germany and the eleventh biggest football club in the world, generating €189.1 million in 2012 according to Forbes.
Sponsors and promotional initiatives
With its international audience draw and the prestige around the competition, the Champions League has assembled a partnership roster of globally recognized, blue-chip brands. Of the most notable partners: Adidas, Ford, Heineken, MasterCard and HTC are currently the brands most heavily involved with the tournament, activating with on-field signage, on-site blueprints, online promotions/ticket giveaways, and VIP hospitality offerings.