Last updated on October 8th, 2021
There are quite a few football competitions that happen during the football season. Both the Champions League and the World Cup are the more popular competitions.
However, how do they differ from each other?
Here’s what you need to know:
- 1 The difference between the Champions League and World Cup
- 2 Is the World Cup harder compared to the Champions League?
- 3 Is the World Cup more prestigious than the Champions League?
- 4 Would you rather win the World Cup or the Champions League?
- 5 Which players have won the World Cup and the Champions League?
- 6 Conclusion
The difference between the Champions League and World Cup
The Champions League involves 32 football clubs from the top European leagues, while the World Cup consists of 32 national teams from 6 different continents. Both competitions have a group stage and knockout round format. However, the Champions League has double legged knockout rounds while the World Cup only has single legged rounds.
Here is an in-depth comparison between these 2 competitions:
Number of teams involved
Both the World Cup and Champions League have 32 teams in their respective competitions.
This only measures the number of teams in the main competition. There will be quite a few teams that were involved in the qualifying rounds which do not make the cut.
Number of continents involved
The Champions League only involves clubs that come from European leagues. This includes the major leagues, such as:
Meanwhile, the World Cup involves countries from all over the world. However, there is a limit to how many teams per continent which can feature in the World Cup:
|Continent||Number of Countries|
|Asia||4 or 5|
|North, Central America |
|3 or 4|
|South America||4 or 5|
|Oceania||0 or 1|
These limits were decided in 2015 for the next few World Cups, until 2022.
The host will automatically for the competition, which leaves 31 more slots for the other teams.
Europe has the most number of slots at 13! The next continent with the second highest number of teams is both Asia and South America.
Frequency of the competition
The Champions League happens every year, along with the European football season. Meanwhile, the World Cup happens once every 4 years.
The World Cup is usually held 2 years apart from the continental competitions, such as:
- Copa America
Duration of the competition
The Champions League usually runs the span of around 11 months, usually between June to May. This is because each group stage matchday is played every alternate week.
Due to the congested fixture schedule for European clubs, each matchday is usually a few weeks apart.
The Champions League final is usually played after the end of all the European leagues.
In this way, the Champions League is like a curtain closer for the entire year’s football season.
Meanwhile, the World Cup is usually held over the course of one month. The competition usually starts in June, one month after most football seasons end in May.
It will then run all the way till the end of July.
This is because the May-August period is the season break for most leagues. As such, the World Cup matches can be played continuously, after a few days’ break between matches.
Type of teams
For the Champions League, the top European clubs will be competing in the tournament. These usually involves all of the major clubs.
Meanwhile, the World Cup consists of 32 different national teams.
This does make a difference, because football clubs can choose the players they want to buy and sell. In this case, it is possible to build very strong football teams, such as Bayern Munich or Real Madrid.
This is in contrast to national teams. While it is possible to switch national teams, the players would have to meet certain criteria before doing so.
Some countries may have one or two well known football stars, while the rest of the team may not be of the same standard.
An example is Mohamed Salah of Egypt, who is the main star of the team.
However, there are some national teams that are really strong, such as France or Germany.
Some of the players who are on the first team of their clubs may not even be selected for their national team!
In the Champions League, there are 2 different lists of players that can be registered for the competition.
The first list (List A) has a maximum of 25 players, where 8 of them have to be homegrown players. Meanwhile, the second list (List B) consists of players who are born on or after 1 Jan 1995 as well as other requirements.
There can be an unlimited number of players who are registered on List B.
For the World Cup, the final squad that can participate in the tournament consists only of 23 players.
Qualification for competition
Both competitions have a qualifying round to make it to the final tournament.
For the Champions League, there are teams that automatically qualify for the tournament. This can be based either on their league position, or their performance in the UEFA competitions.
If you win either the Champions League or the Europa League, your team will automatically qualify for the tournament.
However for the World Cup, only the host receives automatic qualification. Even if your country were the champions for the previous World Cup, your team would not automatically qualify for the World Cup!
They will still need to play in the World Cup qualifiers of their respective continents.
Format of competition
Both the Champions League and the World Cup consist of a group stage, and then a knockout round.
If you’re wondering what happens if the top teams have the same points in the group stages, you can check out this article to find out more.
For the knockout rounds, it is slightly different for both competitions.
In the World Cup, each knockout match only consists of one leg. However for the Champions League, there are 2 legs for each knockout round.
The only 2 matches which does not have 2 legs are the final and third place match.
This is because the knockout rounds of the Champions League are played at the home stadium of both clubs. This ensures that there is no ‘unfair’ advantage of only one team playing in their homeground.
For the World Cup, the tournament is usually played in a single country. However in the case of the 2002 World Cup, it was co-hosted by both Korea and Japan.
Only the hosts of the tournament will have a homeground advantage. This is why each knockout round is only a single legged match.
Here is a summary of all of the points that we’ve discussed regarding these 2 tournaments:
|Champions League||World Cup|
|Number of |
|Frequency of |
|Every year||Every 4 years|
|Duration of |
|11 months||1 month|
|Type of Teams||European clubs||National teams|
|Squad Size||25 (+ List B)||23|
|For CL and EL |
for some clubs
|Only for hosts|
|Format of |
|Group stage + |
|Group stage + |
Is the World Cup harder compared to the Champions League?
The Champions League may be considered to be tougher than the World Cup, due to the quality of players in the European clubs. These clubs have the money to buy the best players, and form very strong teams in the process. Some national teams may not have the same standard as they may only have a few standout players in the team.
Since clubs are able to buy players, they can choose whichever players they want to buy. Some of these clubs include PSG and Manchester City, where they are able to buy the best players at high prices.
In this case, teams that participate in the Champions League may have stronger squads compared to national teams.
Some of these national teams do not have good players for every position on the field. This may result in the quality of the team to be ‘lower’ compared to European football clubs.
Is the World Cup more prestigious than the Champions League?
Most players would consider winning the World Cup to be more prestigious compared to winning the Champions League. Football players have a sense of national pride, and they would want to win the World Cup for their country. The World Cup also only happens once every 4 years, which makes the win even more valuable.
Even though the World Cup may be considered to be of ‘lower standard’ compared to the Champions League, most players would want to win this prize for their country.
One reason could be due to the World Cup’s ‘scarcity’ compared to the Champions League. Since it happens once every 4 years, it may be considered to be a harder tournament to win since you only have a few chances to win it as a player.
So far, a football player can play a maximum of 5 different World Cup tournaments for their country. Rafael Márquez of Mexico was one of the players who achieved this feat.
Compared to the Champions League which happens every year, I’m sure that the players would cherish a World Cup victory more than winning the Champions League.
Would you rather win the World Cup or the Champions League?
The World Cup is seen by many as the ultimate prize in football. The Champions League comes close as possibly the next most prestigious trophy. However, most football players would probably cherish a World Cup victory much more, due to their national pride, compared to winning the Champions League.
Which players have won the World Cup and the Champions League?
There are a total of 73 players who have won both the World Cup and the Champions League.
If you are looking for the entire list of players who have won the World Cup and the Champions League, you can have a look at this list on Quora, which extensively shows all of these players who has achieved this feat!
Which English players have won both the World Cup and the Champions League?
Currently, there are only 2 English players who have won the World Cup and the Champions League: Nobby Stiles and Sir Bobby Charlton. They were in the English team that won the 1966 World Cup, and the Manchester United team which won the 1968 Champions League.
England’s last World Cup victory was in 1966. As such, there aren’t many English players who have won both the World Cup and Champions League.
The only two to have done so have won both the 1966 World Cup,
and the 1968 Champions League.
Unless England wins another World Cup, these 2 players will be the only ones who have accomplished this feat!
The World Cup and Champions League are 2 of the major tournaments in the football calendar. Both of them have their strengths and weaknesses which makes them very unique competitions.
By knowing the difference between them, perhaps you may take a liking to one of them over the other!
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