The UEFA Champions League is UEFA's most prestigious club competition. Originally created as the European Champion Clubs' Cup prior to the 1955/56 season, the competition changed format and name in time for the 1992/93 season.
The UEFA Champions League is open to each national association's domestic champions, as well as clubs who finish just behind them in the domestic championship table. The number of clubs that can be entered by an association and their entry point in the competition depends on the association's position in UEFA's coefficient ranking list.
Since then, the competition has continued to evolve, maintaining a mixture of round-robin group matches together with the traditional knock-out format. For the 2003/04 season, following the three qualifying rounds, a new format for the 32-team group stage (eight groups with four teams each) will be implemented. The group winners and runners-up will advance to the knock-out stage of the competition, with the eight third-placed teams moving to the UEFA Cup third round, while the eight fourth-placed teams will be eliminated.
Extended knock-out element
The 16 clubs that advance to the knock-out stage will play two matches against each other on a home and away basis, with the club scoring the greater aggregate of goals qualifying for the next round. In the event of both teams scoring the same number of goals, the team which scores more goals away qualifies. The two teams that advance from the knock-out round contest the final, held as a single match.