ESL - European Super League

Posted on Mon 26 March 2018 in Sports

The UEFA Champions League (UCL) is a 32-team, continental tournament played in Europe. The elite teams of Europe contest this tournament every year. It is considered by many to be the pinnacle of club football.

I have been a fan of the UCL for over 15 years now. From seeing Liverpool pull off the Istanbul win of 2005 to Real Madrid retaining the UCL (a feat no other team has achieved in the current format until now). The tournament has been great since the time I've gotten to know it.

Although the tournament has grown in popularity over the years, I have a few criticisms of it (being an avid fan and self-appointed "football critic").

Beyond the criticisms, I will also introduce a new format for a continental European tournament, which I have branded: ESL - European Super League


The best vs. outcome of the selections/draws

The UCL format is similar to the World Cup format. 32 teams in groups, with the top 2 from each group proceeding into the knockout-rounds that go all the way to the finals.

While you occassionally get the group of death each year (a difficult group with at least 3 winning-potential teams), the rest of the format leans towards the outcome of the selections/draws.

A team could arguably have an easy path all the way to the semi-finals and only face another real contender then. This doesn't actually allow fans to see "the best vs. the best".

As a fan of a single club, you may prefer having that easy path. However, if you assumed a neutral position, wouldn't you rather see the best teams square off with each other to genuinely prove who is Europes best club?

Defensive football ("parking the bus")

I will be the first to admit that it is not that bad to see a defensive masterclass outdo a relentless attacking team. We've seen teams like Inter Milan and Chelsea pull these off by essentially loading their defensive third with all their players and then attempting to play on the counter.

While a few of these games are great, to watch many of them is quite painful. It is a relentless onslaught by the attacking team that would fatigue a neutral watcher of the beautiful game. It also falls into the category of game-management, but in certain cases, the entire away game is managed for a certain outcome.

This is certainly not as exciting as the attacking mantra of: anything you score, we will score more

Minnow teams

Seeing the underdog win a tournament like the UCL is 1 of the hopes of many neutral fans. Pre-money, the last time this occurred was in 2004 with Porto FC. With big-money now playing a central role in most big teams, seeing a minnow win the UCL is extremely unlikely (into the foreseeable future).

This leaves minnows as fillers. They occassionally break into the knockout-rounds, but to most of them, just making it to the UCL itself is a win. When the minnows face the giants, it becomes a training execise where they are beaten both home and away (7 or 8 nil scorelines).

The European Super League (ESL) alternative

The ESL is a proposed upgrade to the current UCL format. Proposed changes in the ESL include the tournament structure, as well as the points system.


Switching formats to the ESL would require adjusting the entry-requirements. The quota system would need to be adjusted down to 20 teams. These 20 teams would then compete in a league-like format, with home/away games.

The winner of the league each season would be the team that accumulates the most points. There would be no relegation, as each current season of teams in the ESL would be determined by the qualifying teams positions in their local leagues of the previous season.


Moving to a league format might risk having situations where certain teams choose to play out to draws (especially on away fixtures). To remedy this situation, switching to a "positive-points" system would ensure that attacking football is guaranteed in every fixture.

The positive-points system would look like so:

  • Home team Win = 2 points
  • Away team Win = 3 points
  • Draw = 0 points

The points system would possibly require review by game theorists to see if this positive-points system could be gamed by teams. Due to its simplicity and incentives though, it should encourage away teams to play attacking football too.


I have purposely avoided discussion of the financing behind the ESL, as that is a complex topic on its own.

The current UCL model is a complex set of licensing deals and sponsorships.

For simplicity sake, I would advocate for a live-streaming model that is accessible globally to all audiences.


Every plan has rough edges. I welcome people to review and modify the idea of the ESL, whilst keeping simplicity in mind at all times. You can reach me at my email to share your ideas.

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