Women

UEFA Women’s Champions League

The UEFA Women’s Champions League has changed dramatically since its inaugural season in 2001/2002. It is another example of how, with proper funding and infrastructure, women’s football not only produces better quality but produces something that tens of thousands will see live and millions will watch at home. 

Much like the men’s equivalent, the UEFA Women’s Champions League brings together the best Europe has to offer. In recent years, as we’ll cover late, there has tended to be one winner. As investment in women’s football continues to vary wildly, it’s not too much of a shock. However, with each passing year, the gap closes, and the pool of potential winners in this most coveted of competitions – the ultimate sign of progress for clubs, national leagues, and the women’s game in general – widens and widens and widens.

But that’s to come. To understand that fully, we need to understand what’s come before, fully.

UEFA Women’s Champions League: The 101

  • Since 2021/2022 – following confirmation of the change in 2019 – the UEFA Women’s Champions League is structured in a way that more closely resembles the men’s version. A double-round-robin group stage – consisting of four groups – is followed by a knockout phase, beginning with the quarterfinals.
  • 50 European countries are represented in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, including those who begin in the qualification phase before the group stage. The top six associations have three teams qualify. Associations ranked seven to sixteen have two. Everyone else has one. Russia is currently banned from competing in this competition due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
  • The UEFA Champions League is the only continental club competition the women’s game has. There are ongoing discussions of adding more – again, to replicate the structure of the men’s game – but nothing is concrete yet.
  • Prize money is given to each team that qualifies for the group stage. Additional prize money is given to those who lose in the quarterfinals, lose in the semi-finals, lose in the final, and win the final.

An Exploding History of the UEFA Women’s Champions League

As you’ll see throughout the early history of the UEFA Women’s Champions League to its recent history, Northern and Western European countries ruled the elite club competitions – and these countries were top contenders for World Cups too.

The inaugural season of the UEFA Women’s Champions League took place in 2001/2002. Many national leagues had been running since the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s before a continental competition was established. (Not many of the leagues were professional at this time.) The structure was as follows from 2001/2002 until 2009/2010:

  • Thirty-two teams qualified for the group stage. These teams were drawn into eight groups of four in a single-round-robin format. All group-stage fixtures (three) were played in a single location across a five-day span. One team from each group progressed to the quarterfinals.
  • The knockout phase was played in exactly the same way as the men’s: two-legged quarter- and semi-finals – one at home, one away. The final began single-legged in 2001/2002 but became two-legged in 2002/2003.

There were no teams from Southern Europe in the knock phase of the competition, with the final contested by Frankfurt of Germany and Umeå of Sweden. Frankfurt were the eventual champions. 

Until 2009/2010, when the competition changed format, German teams were dominant. Frankfurt won three titles, and Turbine Potsdam and FCR Duisburg won one title each. Umeå avenged their defeat in the inaugural season with back-to-back championships in 2002/2003 and 2003/2004, with Brazilian legend Marta contributing to their latter win. Arsenal lifted the trophy in 2006/2007, thanks to a sole Alex Scott goal in the first leg, clinching a 1-0 victory on aggregate.

From the 2009/2010 season, the competition technically grows to accommodate champions and runners-up from each of the UEFA members associations. However, participation varied year-on-year, so the pre-group-stage qualification phase of each annual tournament was adjusted accordingly as the runners-up of more associations were automatically entered at the group stage. However, an important change was that the final would be single-legged, regardless.

While the first period of the UEFA Women’s Champions League could be titled the Germanic Period – maybe even the Frankfurt Period – its recent history can definitively be called the Olympique Lyonnais period. 

Frankfurt, VfL Wolfsburg, and Turbine Potsdam – all three clubs being the most successful teams in the Frauen-Bundesliga – have clinched four titles between them since 2009/2010. Barcelona were the first team from Spain – and Southern Europe – to lift the Champions League in 2020/2021 after Alexia Putellas and Jennifer Hermoso set the tournament alight, dismantling Chelsea in the final 4-0. However, Olympique Lyonnais have won eight – eight! – titles. The French team are lauded as the exemplary model for clubs to follow for established and developing women’s team – not just to reach the heights once, but to reach them again, and again, and again…

Lyon, featuring players like Lucy Bronze, Eugénie Le Sommer, Wendie Renard, Ada Hegerberg, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and the ever-present Sarah Bouhaddi, have routinely put together mouth-watering teams and blown the competition away. However, having been knocked out by Chelsea in the 2022/2023 quarterfinals, they will fail to retain their latest triumph.

UEFA Women’s Champions League: DAZNBet’s Pop Quiz

Now we’ve covered the relatively youthful but exploding history of the UEFA Women’s Champions League – we’ll put your might to the test with these teasing pop quiz questions.

Which association has had the most UEFA Women’s Champions League titles?

Despite Lyon establishing their dominance in recent seasons – and Paris Saint-Germain, too, appearing in finals, France cannot lay claim to the honour of having the most Champions League medals on their soil. That honour goes to Germany. Frankfurt, Turbine Potsdam, Wolfsburg, and Duisburg have won nine Champions League between them, and they’ll be hoping that Wolfsburg can clinch another this season.

Which player scored the most goals in a single UEFA Women’s Champions League campaign?

Throughout the competition’s history, there have been plenty of stellar goalscoring seasons. Top of the list, though, is Ada Hegerberg’s 2017/2018 season with 15 goals, taking Lyon to their third successive title in what turned out to be a five-successive-titles stretch.

Which game had the Highest Attendance in UEFA Women’s Champions League history?

While many women’s teams have men’s equivalents, not all women’s teams have access to men’s stadiums. Barcelona do. Following their success in 2020/2021, 2021/2022 saw bumper crowds for their knockout run. Following their record-setting quarter-final home tie versus Real Madrid – which saw 91553 people turn up at Camp Nou – 91648 people roared the team past Wolfsburg in the first leg of the semi-final. They’d eventually lose 3-1 to Lyon in the final, but those attendances broke new ground for the women’s game, not just in Spain.