Explaining the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League group stage draw

Thursday’s Champions League group stage draw is set. The playoff round, which qualified the final 10 teams for the group stage, is done and now those winners will join the 22 teams that went straight into the group stage. UEFA will conduct the draw that sets the group stage for the upcoming campaign and the 32 best teams in Europe will learn their road to continental glory. Or at least their road for the fall.

How does it work?

The 32 teams are put in four pots of eight each. Then one team will be drawn from each pot and put together to form a four-team group. Those four teams will play each other home and away throughout the fall, with the top two teams advancing to the round of 16.

How are the pots set up?

Pot 1 is made up of the champions from last season’s top seven leagues, as determined by the UEFA coefficient. Last season’s Champions League winner, Real Madrid, are also in pot 1.

From there, Pot 2, Pot 3 and Pot 4 are determined by the UEFA club coefficient. The eight teams in the competition with the highest club coefficient not already in Pot 1 go into Pot 2, then the next eight in Pot 3 and the remaining teams in Pot 4.

So who’s in which pots?

Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid with Champions League trophy. (Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)

Pot 1: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Leicester City, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Benfica, Paris Saint-Germain, CSKA Moscow

Pot 2: Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, Manchester City, Sevilla, Porto, Napoli, Bayer Leverkusen

Pot 3: Basel, Tottenham Hotspur, Dynamo Kyiv, Lyon, PSV Eindhoven, Sporting Portugal, Club Brugge, Borussia Monchengladbach

Pot 4: Celtic, Monaco, Besiktas, Legia Warsaw, Dinamo Zagreb, Ludogorets, Copenhagen, Rostov

Being in the higher pots seems to be a big advantage

It’s massive. If you’re in Pot 1, you know you won’t have to have any gigantic powers. Leicester and Benfica and even CSKA know they won’t have Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Juventus in their group. That’s a huge plus.

Even further on down, Manchester City don’t have to worry about an Atletico Madrid or Borussia Dortmund. Plus, everyone in the first three pots, even a Pot 3 team like Tottenham, know that they’ll have a relatively weak side in their group thanks to Pot 4.

Besides one team from each pot, are there any other rules?

(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)

There’s one pretty big one: teams from the same league can’t be drawn against each other in the group stage. That means Atletico Madrid can’t be put in Real Madrid or Barcelona’s group. When Atletico Madrid’s name is drawn, the balls for the pots their fellow Spanish teams are in will be taken out of the bowl so they can’t land there. The same will be true with Manchester City and Arsenal in Pot 2 with Leicester and Tottenham, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen with Bayern Munich, etc.

What does the draw decide besides who’s in which groups?

The draw will also decide the schedule for the group stage. That includes which matchdays teams will play each other and when teams will be home vs. away.

When can you watch the draw?

It all gets started at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday.

Where can you watch the draw?

Flip on FS1 and you’ll get it live.