Bayern Munich’s impressive comeback victory against Juventus today had a farther-reaching effect than just sending Bayern into the Champions League quarterfinals: it ensured that England will hold onto its four Champions League spots for at least another year.
Each country is allocated a certain number of Champions League slots based upon its UEFA coefficient, which is calculated from Champions League and Europa League results over the past five seasons. The top three countries get four Champions League slots, while the next three get just three. England has the third-highest UEFA coefficient (behind Spain and Germany) at 74.409 after today’s matches, while Italy’s is 70.439.
The only Italian team left in either competition is Lazio, who face Sparta Prague tomorrow in the second leg of their 1-1 tie to determine who will advance to the Europa League quarterfinals. Even if Lazio were to win out, the maximum coefficient Italy could achieve would be 72.939. Besides England’s coefficient being higher, they will pickup additional points no matter the result of tomorrow’s Liverpool-Manchester United Europa League tie, while Tottenham and Manchester City are both still alive and able to earn points.
But while England is assured of sending four teams into the Champions League for the next two seasons—the rankings at the end of the 2015-16 season impact the allocation for the 2017-18 season—Italy might snatch that fourth spot in 2018-19. The oldest season that currently contributes to the UEFA coefficient is 2011-12, when England picked up 15.250 points and Italy got just 11.357. Those points will fall out of the coefficient calculations next season, and if the English teams currently still playing in the Champions League and Europa League flame out, England could begin next season behind the eight ball, with a lower coefficient than Italy.
And if only three Champions League spots are available, what will we do with all of our Arsenal Fourth Place Trophy jokes?