A League of Champions
Americans love a good tournament, but sometime seem to struggle get it right (BCS? Expansion of March Madness? MLB postseason too long? NFL overtime rules?).
The Europeans get the Champions League right; take the biggest teams in the world’s biggest sport in the biggest leagues with the biggest players, the biggest sponsors, biggest fan bases, biggest arenas, and the biggest stages, and make them do battle for Europe’s biggest prize – the continent’s best soccer club.
All. Year. Long.
Beginning in mid-July, the top teams in the top leagues of Europe begin a group stage of 32 teams. 77 candidate teams initially qualify for the group stage based on their performance in their play in-league in the prior season and the overall performance of their league.
Teams from leagues such as the English Premier League, Germany’s Bundesliga, France’s Ligue 1, and the Italian Serie A square off early in the group stage to see who will advance to the round-robin style tournament.
The most compelling aspect is the fact that the Champions League runs concurrent with teams’ regular season, demanding managers to allocate players and energies to winning league games, and also try and go the distance in the Champions League, often regarded as the bigger prize.
The international aspect of the tournament allows European soccer fans to see “dream matchups” of the continents top teams that would not normally face each other.
By May, the tournament is whittled down to the final two teams, who play in a different city every year in some of the world’s greatest stadiums. The top class matchup and international excitement has made the Champions League Final the most viewed sporting event in the world, greater than even the Super Bowl.
Overall, the Champions League takes the best of the best, the biggest of the biggest, and puts them up for soccer fanatics’ viewing pleasure.
Tomorrow, Chelsea, from England’s Premier League travels to Munich to take on Bayern Munich at fabled Allianz Arena. Bayern Munich gets a rare home game final; Chelsea attempts to become only the second English club (Manchester United did it in 1999) to win England’s FA Cup and the Champions League in the same season.