A few days ago, LEN announced that it had introduced the Water Polo Ranking, which will affect the competition formula of the LEN competitions for the clubs.
As we published, according to unofficial information, the system of automatic qualification for the group stage and the competition format will be changed.
Meanwhile, official information about the new format of the Champions League appeared. LEN sent a letter to the clubs and the national federations about the new system.
New criteria for wild cards
LEN changed the criteria for awarding wild cards.
The defending champion and top 11 countries in the LEN’s ranking will receive wild cards for automatic qualification to the Group stage.
The top 11 countries at the moment are Italy (national champion Pro Recco), Hungary (Ferencvaros), Spain (Barceloneta), Croatia (Jadran Split), Greece (Olympiacos), Serbia (Novi Beograd), Germany (Spandau 04), France (Marseille), Montenegro (Jadran Herceg Novi), Romania (Steaua Bucharest or Oradea), and Georgia (Dinamo Tbilisi).
(Russia is ranked 9th, but it’s most likely that the Russian clubs won’t participate next season, which opens doors for 12th-placed Georgia.)
*The current ranking has been made according to the points won concluding with the season 2021/22, but the results in this season shouldn’t significantly change the rankings of the top 12 countries. The mentioned nations will remain among the top 12.
The European champion’s country will have the right to have two directly qualified teams. The next best-placed team from the national championship of the defending champion also has the right to enter the Group Stage. This is either the first or the second-placed team, depending on the result of the CHL winner 2023 in its national championship.
Winners of the national championships from the top 11 Nations-Clubs ranked countries may use a wild card on the condition that they can meet several criteria (the assurance of quality TV production, high level of technical quality in the team, an adequate pool, ability to organize the event adequately, etc). If the national champion cannot meet the criteria, a possibility of direct participation in the Champions League will be given to the second-placed team, LEN said in the letter.
More details will be presented at the meeting that will be held during the Final Eight in Belgrade. As Total Waterpolo found out, the European champion won’t have to pay for the wild card, while the entry fee for the other clubs will be reduced by 5.000 euros (from 35.000 to 30.000).
The Champions League will be staged in 4 phases:
-Group Stage (4 groups / 4 teams).
-Quarter Final Stage (2 groups / 4 teams).
Four teams from Qualifications will advance to the Group Stage and join the 12 directly qualified teams.
The top two teams from each group will advance to the Quarter Final Stage. The 1st-placed and 2nd-placed teams from the groups of this phase will qualify for the Final Four.
The organizer of the Final Four event will not qualify directly for the tournament.
This competition formula was applied once, in the season 2010/11.
The current format of the Champions League was introduced in the season 2013/14. Since then, the organizer of the Final Eight (Final Six until 2017) was qualified directly for the final tournament, regardless of the results in the group stage.
The wild cards were allocated by criteria that differ from the ones that will be valid from the following season. Between 2013 and this season, it happened several times that the national champion played qualifications, while the 2nd-placed or 3rd-placed team from that country had a wild card.
LEN wants to increase the number of countries participating in the Group Stage of the Champions League, intending to develop water polo. Besides, LEN believes the new system is good for the sport as national champions will be rewarded with a wild card to gain an automatic place in the Champions League.