Historic UEFA Women's Champions League group stage kicks off

The concentration of power in men's soccer has been in Europe for many years.

The same is happening on the women's side as many of Europe's top clubs begin to invest in the women's game.

The latest move: the first group stage in the UEFA Women's Champions League launches on Tuesday with 16 teams divided into four groups.  Many of Europe's top clubs are competing, including Real Madrid and Benfica, which only recently added women's programs.

Many of the world's top women will take part, including two U.S. Olympic bronze-medalists -- Tobin Heath and Catarina Macario -- and five Canadian gold-medalists.

The revamped competition means more games and better competition for Europe's top women's clubs. And also a bigger payday.

The 16 clubs in the group stage will receive a minimum of 400,000 euros ($465,000) -- five times more than before in the round of 16. The winner will take home 1.4 million euros ($1.6 million).

It is a fraction of the money on offer on the men's side -- a minimum of 15.64 million euros ($18.2 million) for each of the 32 teams in the group stage -- but the most money UEFA has ever contributed to women's clubs.

Almost a quarter of the total payout of 24 million euros ($28 million) will go to non-participating clubs in Europe's top domestic leagues as solidarity payments.

The new competition comes as UEFA attracts more commercial support and greater media interest. DAZN will carry all games in 2021-22.

All but four teams -- the English, French, German and Spanish champions -- had to go through at least one qualifying round. The top two teams in each group will advance to the quarterfinals in the spring. Juventus Stadium in Turin will host the final on May 22.

Group A
Chelsea, England (7). Fell to Barcelona in the 2021 Champions League final.
Wolfsburg, Germany (3). Won back-to-back Champions League titles in 2013-14.
Juventus, Italy (33). Winner of 27 straight Serie A games over last two seasons.
Servette. Switzerland (57). Won first Swiss Women's Super League trophy in 2021.

Group B
Paris SG, France (4). Features Canadian gold-medalists Jordyn Huitema, Stephanie Labbe and Ashley Lawrence
Breioablik, Iceland (30). First Icelandic (men's or women's) club to play in UEFA group stage.
U.S. connection: Tiffany McCarthy.
Real Madrid, Spain (n/r). Stunned Manchester City in qualifying to reach group stage.
WFC Kharkiv, Ukraine (52). Reached the final 16 for the first time.

Group C
Barcelona, Spain (2). Jonatan Giraldez has replaced Lluis Cortes as head coach.
Arsenal, England (22). Only English team to won trophy (2007 UEFA Women's Cup).
U.S. connection: Tobin Heath.
Hoffenheim, Germany (n/r). One of three German teams in final 16.
Koge, Denmark (n/r). Won Danish league title in first season in top flight.
U.S. connection: Kyra Caruso, Kaylan Marckese, Kelly Fitzgerald, Lauren Sajeiwch, Maddie Pokorny, Arianna Romero.

Group D
Bayern Munich, Germany (5). Opened Frauen-Bundesliga season with four wins by a margin of 21-0.
Lyon, France (1) Ada Hegerberg, the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner, begins her comeback after 20 months on sidelines.
U.S. connection: Catarina Macario.
Häcken, Sweden (31). Successor club to Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC, which controversially folded after 2020 season.
Benfica, Portugal (70). Won Portuguese league title in its second season in top flight.
Note: In parentheses is UEFA coefficient.

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