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Champions League draw explainer: How Europe’s top club competition’s draw operates

The UEFA Champions League gets started with a draw for the group stage on August 26, where we’ll find out who will be grouped with who in the competition’s first round.

Chelsea win Champions League title Photo by Alexander Hassenstein - UEFA/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

It’s that time of year again — the UEFA Champions League is upon us. 32 teams will vie to be crowned the next champions of Europe over the next nine months, and it all starts with the group stage draw being held on August 26.

What is the draw?

The tournament begins with all 32 teams being divided into eight groups, and the draw determines who will end up in which group when the competition kicks off.

How does the draw work?

To start, all teams are split into four different pots. The first pot contains the current title holders, the UEFA Europa League champions, and six champions from other domestic leagues around the continent. The rest of the pots are put together by club coefficient rankings. No team can be pitted against another club from their same country’s football association in the group stage, either.

One team is drawn from each pot, and every time four teams are drawn, that creates a group. This continues until all teams have been drawn and all eight groups are filled.

What teams are involved?

Here is a full list of teams for each of the four pots:

Pot 1

Pot 2

Pot 3

  • Porto
  • Ajax
  • Shakhtar Donetsk
  • RB Leipzig
  • Red Bull Salzburg
  • Benfica
  • Atalanta
  • Zenit Saint Petersburg

Pot 4

  • Beşiktaş
  • Dynamo Kyiv
  • Club Brugge
  • Young Boys
  • Milan
  • Malmö FF
  • VfL Wolfsburg
  • Sheriff Tiraspol

How can I watch the draw?

You can catch the draw on UEFA’s website. It will take place Thursday, August 26 at 12 p.m. ET.

Which team is the reigning champion?

English Premier League giants Chelsea won their second-ever UEFA Champions League title in 2021 by defeating fellow EPL club Manchester City 1-0.

Who is expected to win the title this season?

Both Manchester City and PSG are entering the tournaments as favorites to win. Of course PSG made a huge move by signing Lionel Messi after he left Barcelona, pairing him with one of the other best attackers in the world, Neymar. Man City will hope to not only make it back to the final for the second year in a row, but to finally win their first title. Chelsea could make a run at defending their title especially after signing Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan who should give the Blues plenty of extra firepower in the attack.

How can I watch Champions League matches in the US?

The Champions League games will be broadcast in the US on CBS and CBS Sports Network while Univision, TUDN, UniMas, and Galavision (for select matches) will offer Spanish-language broadcasts. If you prefer to stream the games, they’ll be available on the streaming service Paramount+ which offers a free trial period to new members.