More clubs in EHF European League group stage from 2023/24
In 2023/24, the playing format of the EHF European League Men will be undergoing its first major change since the competition was introduced in the 2020/21 season.
In the new competition format, 32 teams will compete in the group matches – eight more than in the current group phase – while a main round and play-offs will be added to the schedule.
The EHF European League has firmly established itself since the competition first saw daylight amid the overhaul of all EHF club competitions in 2020.
Currently in its third season, Europe’s second-tier club competition has been providing high-class handball with entertaining matches culminating into scintillating EHF Finals tournaments that are appealing to fans worldwide.
While the women’s version of the EHF European League remains unchanged, the men’s version will get a new look as of the start of the 2023/24 season.
In its meeting in Luxembourg last week, the EHF Executive Committee has approved a new playing system for the EHF European League Men, which includes the following changes:
- the group phase with 24 teams (four groups of six) will be replaced with group matches with 32 teams (eight groups of four);
- while 16 teams from 16 different nations will be seeded into the group matches directly, the other 16 teams advance from one qualification round, where 32 teams meet in a home-and-away tie;
- the teams ranked first and second in each group advance to the main round, which consists of four groups of four teams, while results from the group matches will be carried over
- the winners of the four main round groups proceed to the quarter-finals; the teams ranked second and third meet in a play-off round for the remaining four quarter-final spots.
Once the competition has reached its quarter-finals, the playing system is identical to the current structure: the four winners of the quarter-finals advance to the season-ending EHF Finals Men.
By implementing the new playing structure, the EHF is meeting a request put forward by several club representatives, who asked for more planning time early in the season.
In the current situation, clubs competing in qualification round 2, with the second leg scheduled for the first week of October, only find out three weeks in advance whether they will be part of the EHF European League Men group phase of not.
Eight upgraded teams from the EHF European Cup in the qualification
By reducing the qualification mode to just one round, to be played in the end of August and in the beginning of September, all participating clubs will be confirmed seven weeks ahead of the start of the group matches.
A limited number of federations will have direct access to the European League, while up to eight teams can be upgraded – if requested – from the EHF European Cup to play in that one qualification round for the spots in the group matches.
Even though the new structure adds a main round and play-offs, the total number of matches since the start of the group stage will remain the same. While the current group phase has 10 rounds, the new group matches have six and the main round has four; also, no Last 16 will be played.