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European soccer facing breakaway club competition that could cost Champions League

Soccer could face a major shake-up if major clubs agree on a new plan for a breakaway continental club competition.

The stadium setup with FC Internazionale new logo is seen through the soccer goal prior to the Serie A football match between FC Internazionale and Cagliari Calcio. Photo by Andrea Staccioli/Insidefoto/LightRocket via Getty Images

UPDATE: The super league is officially on. 12 European clubs in EPL, Serie A and La Liga have announced plans to form the new league with three more teams expected to join in time for the inaugural season. There is no specific date yet, but it “is intended to commence as soon as practicable.” The 12 clubs include AC Milan, Arsenal, Atlético, Chelsea, Barcelona, Internazionale, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Tottenham.

European soccer is facing a huge change that could all but end the UEFA Champions League as a relevant event. Major soccer clubs across the European continent have been negotiating a plan to create a super league of competition that would guarantee each team $425 million to sign up, per the New York Times.

Upwards of a dozen teams across Italy, England, and Spain have been involved in the conversations. The list includes Juventus, Internazionale, and A.C. Milan from Italy, Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham from England, and Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid from Spain. The group has pitched the idea to German clubs Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, but they have declined for the time being.

A plan is expected to be announced soon, and the fallout would be significant. UEFA and FIFA have been working to figure out a counter to this. In January, as rumors were starting to heat up about a super league, FIFA announced that any players who are on clubs that join a breakaway league would be barred from competing for their national teams in the World Cup.

Additionally, there is some talk that the major domestic leagues would potentially banish the teams that join the breakaway league. At the same time, one has to wonder if the clubs would call their bluffs. If the top three clubs in Serie A or arguably six of the most well-known clubs in the EPL elected to join the breakaway league, would their leagues actually banish them from domestic competition given the kind of financial implications that would entail?

There is a whole lot to figure out in the meantime. UEFA is expected to announce plans for a restructuring of the Champions League tournament that would go into effect in 2024. Currently, 32 teams are split into eight pools of four, but that would be replaced with one 36-team league. This would create concerns for domestic leagues given the expansion of play from 125 to 225 matches, so even without the super league, there are headaches on the horizon.