Ligue 1 vs Champions League

Ligue 1 vs Champions League – What’s The Difference?

There are quite a few football competitions that are rather popular in the world.

2 of the more common ones you may have heard of include Ligue 1 and the Champions League.

So what are these competitions and how do they differ?

Here’s what you need to know:

The difference between Ligue 1 and Champions League

Ligue 1 includes the top 20 teams in French football, while the Champions League involves the top 32 clubs from the various European leagues. The format of Ligue 1 is a double round-robin competition, while the Champions League has a group stage and a knockout round, before ending in the Champions League final.

Here is an in-depth comparison between these 2 competitions:

Number of teams involved

Ligue 1 is a league that contains the top 20 teams in the French leagues.

Meanwhile, the Champions League contains the top 32 teams in European football.

However, 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.

Origin of teams

Ligue 1 only contains teams that are from France.

Meanwhile, the Champions League consists of the top teams that come from the different UEFA countries. Currently, there are 55 member countries that are in UEFA.

To qualify for the UEFA Champions League, your team has to originate from a member country of UEFA. Otherwise, you will have to play in the continental competition where your country is from.

This gives a wide variety of teams that feature in the Champions League. One such team is FC Sheriff Tiraspol, which originates from Moldova.

This club gained prominence in the world after beating Real Madrid at home!

Frequency and duration of competition

Both competitions occur on a yearly basis, as part of the club football calendar.

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, Ligue 1 starts in August and ends in May. It is slightly shorter compared to the Champions League.

For the Champions League, the matches are played during the midweek, and the matches are not usually played consecutively. This could be why the duration of the Champions League takes one extra month compared to Ligue 1.

Format of competition

Ligue 1 follows a double round-robin league format. Each team will play against the other 19 clubs in the league.

For the Champions League, it contains a group stage, and then a knockout round.

The top 2 teams from each group will progress onto the knockout round of the Champions League.

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.

The knockout round is similar to most cup competitions, such as the FA Cup and the Copa del Rey.

The Champions League contains 2 legs for each knockout round. This means that the teams will play both at home and away.

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 home ground.

In this way, there is an equal chance for both teams to perform well in front of their fans!

Number of matches

If your team is in Ligue 1, they will play 38 matches. This is because they will play against the other 19 clubs in the league, both home and away.

You can find out more about how to read a soccer table with my guide here.

For the Champions League, the number of matches you play depends on how far you go into the competition.

Here are the number of matches you’ll play in total if you reach the final from the Group Stages:

of Matches
Group Stages6
Round of 162
Quarter Finals2
Semi Finals2

As such, the maximum number of matches that you can play is 13. If your team gets knocked out in the earlier stages, they will play fewer matches.

Squad size

The squad rules are not really clear for the squads in Ligue 1. However, in Football Manager, it was stated that a squad can register a maximum of 4 non-EU players.

For the Champions League, the squad size rules are more explicit.

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.

You can read more about the ‘homegrown’ rule in the Champions League and other competitions in my guide here.

Qualification for competition

For Ligue 1, the bottom 2 teams will be relegated, and the top 2 teams from Ligue 2 will be promoted.

The 17th placed team in Ligue 1 (17th placed) will compete with the 3rd-placed team in Ligue 2 in a relegation playoff match.

This is a 2-legged match where the first match is played at the home of the Ligue 1 side, while the second leg is played at the home of the Ligue 2 side.

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.

Loan player rules

The loan player rules are sort of similar for both competitions. For both Ligue 1 and the Champions League, there are no rules that mentioned that loan players cannot play against their parent club.

This actually has happened quite a few times, particularly in the Champions League.

One of the more notable ones was when Philippe Coutinho played for Bayern Munich, against his parent club (Barcelona).

He came off the bench to score 2 goals and produce 1 assist against Barcelona!

The rules are quite different for other competitions, such as the Premier League, where loan players are not allowed to play against their parent club.

You can read more about the loan players rules in the different leagues with my guide.

Rewards for winning competition

Here are the rewards you’ll receive when you win either competition:

Ligue 1Champions League
Prize MoneyHigherLower
Qualification for next
season’s Champions League
for Super Cup
Trophée des
UEFA Super Cup

When comparing between the 2020/21 prize money that the winners received in Ligue 1 and the Champions League, the Ligue 1 winners received much more (€60 million vs €19 million).

Furthermore, the winners of both Ligue 1 and the Champions League will be guaranteed automatic qualification to the UEFA Champions League group stages.

In terms of the Super Cup competitions that they play, the champions of Ligue 1 will play against the Coupe de la Ligue winners in the Trophée des Champions.

Meanwhile, the Champions League winners will play against the Europa League winners in the UEFA Super Cup.


Here is a summary of the comparison between these 2 competitions:

Ligue 1Champions League
of teams
of teams
Duration10 months11 months
FormatDouble round-robinGroup stage +
knockout rounds
of matches
38Maximum of 13
Squad sizeMaximum
4 non-EU players
25 (17 homegrown)
QualificationTop 2 from Ligue 2

3rd in Ligue 2 has a playoff
with 18th in Ligue 1
League position and Champions
League / Europa League winners
Loan player rulesCan play
against parent club
Can play
against parent club
Prize MoneyHigherLower
Qualification for next
season’s Champions League
for Super Cup
Trophée des ChampionsUEFA Super Cup


Ligue 1 and the Champions League are 2 of the top footballing competitions in the European football season.

While Ligue 1 is one of the more popular leagues, the Champions League may be considered as a much tougher competition due to the quality of all the teams!

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