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The UEFA Champions League (usually referred to as simply the Champions League or historically as the European Cup) is an annual association football cup competition organised by UEFA since 1955 forthe top football clubs in Europe. It is widely considered to be the most prestigious football club competition in the world.[1][2] The final of the competition is the most watched annual sporting eventworldwide, drawing just over 100 million television viewers.[3]
Prior to 1992, the tournament was officially called the European Champion Clubs' Cup but was usually referred to as simply theEuropean Cup or European Champions' Cup. The competition was initially a straight knockout competition open only to the champion club of each country. During the 1990s the tournament began to be expanded,incorporating a round-robin group phase and more teams. Europe's strongest national leagues now provide up to four teams each for the competition. The UEFA Champions League should not be confused withthe UEFA Europa League, formerly known as the UEFA Cup.
The tournament consists of several stages. In the present format it begins in mid-July with three knockout qualifying rounds and a play-offround. The 10 surviving teams join 22 seeded teams in the group stage, in which there are eight groups consisting of four teams each. The eight group winners and eight runners-up enter the final knockoutphase, which ends with the final match in May. Since the tournament changed name and structure in 1992, no club has managed consecutive wins, with Milan being the last club to successfully defendtheir title, in 1990. The winner of the UEFA Champions League qualifies for the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.
The title has been won by 21 different clubs, 12 of which have won the titlemore than once. The all-time record-holders are Real Madrid, who have won the competition nine times, including the first five seasons it was contested. Spain's La Liga and Italy's Serie A are...
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