Which Teams & Groups Have the Most Travel in the 21/22 Champions League Group Stage?

This season’s Champions League group stage has teams from all over Europe. And after the group stage draw, I noticed a huge geographical difference between some of the groups. Group A, for example, contains teams from Belgium, France, England, and Germany—all relatively close to each other. Group D, on the other hand, contains teams from Spain, Italy, Ukraine, and Moldova—across the continent from each other.

This made me wonder about a few questions. First, which teams have to travel the most for their matches this season? And related to that, which teams have to travel the least? Further, which groups have the most travel, and which have the least?

This article will answer those questions and show the data with maps and in tables.

The Data

Let me explain how I got my data. First, I needed the locations of all the clubs. I geocoded each club’s stadium in Google Maps and copied that to Excel. Next, I needed to find the distance between each club. For this step, I calculated the Great Circle Distance between clubs in each group, similar to this formula. The total distance for each club represents the distance to and from each of the other teams’ stadiums in their group.

Of course, this is not the exact distance the club will travel (since they have to drive to airports, planes don’t fly exactly the great circle route, and some groups clubs might drive), but it’s good enough for an estimate.

Teams Travel Distance

Here is a map of all the teams in the group stage this season. Follow this link to play around with the map yourself.

Map of all 21/22 CL Group Stage clubs. Some clubs, like Inter & AC Milan, Sporting CP & Benfica, and the clubs in Northern England, overlap because their stadiums are so close together (or they share, like the Milan clubs)

This map also shows the huge divide between the majority of clubs in Western/Northern Europe and those in Eastern Europe. Central Europe is barely represented (or not at all, depending on how you divide Europe).

So, looking at this map, which teams have to travel the furthest?

Most Travel: Beşiktaş (14,911 km)

Beşiktaş, in Group C, are the club who have to travel the furthest in this season’s group stage. They travel away to Sporting in Portugal, Ajax in the Netherlands, and Dortmund in Germany.

All this travel adds up to a whopping 14,911 km. That’s about 37% of the world’s circumference at the equator.

Second-Most Travel: Real Madrid (14,370 km)

Following close behind Beşiktaş is Real Madrid, in Group D, who have to travel 14,370 km. Real have long trips into Eastern Europe to face Sheriff Tiraspol and Shakhtar Donetsk, along with a trip to Italy to face Inter Milan.

Third-Most Travel: Dynamo Kyiv (14,275 km)

Group E’s Dynamo Kyiv have the third-longest travel distance. With two trips to the Iberian peninsula to face Benfica and Barcelona, along with a trip to Germany against Bayern Munich, Dynamo Kyiv will travel around 14,275 km.

Least Travel: Club Brugge (2,705 km)

Club Brugge, in Group A, will travel the least in this season’s group stage. Of course, being located close to the heart of Europe is beneficial, but the other teams in their group—while difficult—are very close.

The Belgian champions have trips to Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, and RB Leipzig—two countries bordering Belgium, and one sharing a water border.

Second-Least Travel: Paris Saint-Germain (3,286 km)

PSG, also from Group A, have the second-fewest kilometers this season. Again, having trips to neighboring countries has benefits. Even if the matches are difficult, the low amount of time and kilometers is beneficial.

Third-Least Travel: Manchester City (4,121 km)

It’s only fitting a Group A team completes our top-3 fewest miles this season.

Travel Distances By Group

Group A (14,956 km total)

TeamNationTotal Distance (km)
Club BruggeBelgium2,705
Paris Saint-GermainFrance3,286
Manchester CityEngland4,121
RB LeipzigGermany4,844

Altogether, Group A clubs will travel a combined 14,956 km—barely more than Beşiktaş have to travel as a single club. RB Leipzig have to travel the most in this group, covering 4,844 km.

This is the least amount of total travel for any of the groups this season, and it contains two of the strongest contenders to win the competition as well—PSG and Manchester City. Given that these two teams are 2 of the strongest and have the second- and third-fewest group stage kilometers respectively, it’s hard not to imagine both clubs will advance and be fresher deeper into the season than a club like Real Madrid—who have to cover more than 10,000 km more than either PSG or City.

Group B (28,892 km total)

TeamNationTotal Distance (km)
Atlético MadridSpain6,097
PortoPortugal6,724
AC MilanItaly7,845
LiverpoolEngland8,226

Group B clubs combine for 28,892 km—almost twice as much as Group A.

Group B has the least amount of difference between the club traveling the most and the least. Liverpool travel the furthest, while Atlético travel the least, but just 2,129 km more than Liverpool. Group A’s difference is very close, with 2,138 km between Club Brugge’s travel and RB Leipzig’s.

Group C (45,694 km total)

TeamNationTotal Distance (km)
Borussia DortmundGermany8,242
AjaxNetherlands8,517
Sporting CPPortugal14,024
BeşiktaşTurkey14,911

Group C’s clubs combine for the third-most total travel in the groups, behind Groups D and E. This group is interesting because Dortmund and Ajax both have to travel almost half as much as Sporting and Beşiktaş. With Dortmund the only clear “favorite” in this group, it will be interesting to watch how the champions of Portugal, the Netherlands, and Turkey fare with drastically different travel distances.

Group D (45,779 km total)

TeamNationTotal Distance (km)
Inter MilanItaly9,671
Sheriff TiraspolMoldova9,854
Shakhtar DonetskUkraine11,884
Real MadridSpain14,370

Group D combine for the most travel this season, with 45,779 km in total. The Earth’s circumference at the equator is 40,075 km, less than these teams’ travel. Inter and Sheriff benefit from being between Shakhtar and Real, but all of these clubs have to travel incredibly far for their away matches. Like mentioned above, it will be interesting to see how Real fares compared to other strong clubs like PSG or Manchester City, who have to travel almost 11,000 km less during their group stage.

Group E (44,722 km total)

TeamNationTotal Distance (km)
Bayern MunichGermany8,851
BarcelonaSpain8,937
BenficaPortugal12,658
Dynamo KyivUkraine14,275

Group E looks remarkably similar to Group D, with all clubs in a relatively straight line from western to eastern Europe. Both favorites to advance, Barcelona and Bayern, travel a bit less than the other clubs, so this group should be interesting to watch as well. If either Dynamo Kyiv or Benfica progress, they will have done it while having a more brutal travel schedule than the others.

Group F (23,848 km total)

TeamNationTotal Distance (km)
Young BoysSwitzerland4,421
AtalantaItaly4,918
VillarrealSpain7,049
Manchester UnitedEngland7,459

Now we could almost say we’re seeing a pattern—two pairs of clubs having similar travel as each other, but a large proportion more or less than the other pair. Even though this is the second-fewest total travel for an entire group, 3 teams—if not all 4—have a good chance at progressing. This is yet another group that should be fun to follow to see if travel distance and time has an impact on performances.

Group G (30,294 km total)

TeamNationTotal Distance (km)
LilleFrance5,973
VfL WolfsburgGermany6,451
Red Bull SalzburgAustria6,493
SevillaSpain11,377

Sevilla are the odd ones out in Group G, being located much further away from all three other clubs. Their travel is about twice as much as the other clubs in their group, but have an argument for being the strongest team in the group. While not traveling nearly as far as many other clubs, being the most-traveled side in their group might play a role relative to the other teams.

Group H (34,301 km total)

TeamNationTotal Distance (km)
Malmö FFSweden6,666
ChelseaEngland7,991
JuventusItaly8,733
Zenit Saint PetersburgRussia10,912

Group H involves the two most northern clubs in this season’s group stage—Zenit and Malmö. All teams have to travel a fair distance, but Zenit have to travel a bit more than the others. Without huge differences in travel distances between the teams, this group might not see as much of an effect as some others.

Final Data Points

GroupTotal Travel kmTeam with Least TravelTeam with Most Travel
A14,956Club BruggeRB Leipzig
B28,892Atlético MadridLiverpool
C45,694Borussia DortmundBeşiktaş
D45,779Inter MilanReal Madrid
E44,722Bayern MunichDynamo Kyiv
F23,848Young BoysManchester United
G30,294LilleSevilla
H34,301Malmö FFZenit Saint Petersburg

This final graph shows that, thankfully, there’s no relationship between a club’s UEFA coefficient (the higher, the better) and their total travel distance. Once again we see Real Madrid with much more travel than their main rivals for the trophy.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this season’s group stage has plenty of interesting geographical elements, but one of the biggest points—in my mind—is that PSG and Manchester City have the 2nd- and 3rd-least travel of any club. There are many similarities between the clubs, including the ownership, the finances, the quality of the players, and that both have set a goal of winning the Champions League yet haven’t (even with loads of spending). It’s hard to see past that.

However, there’s also lots of inequality in the groups’ travel distance in general. Group A clubs barely travel, while groups D, C, and E each travel around 45,000 km. It’s impossible to avoid that some groups or clubs will travel a lot more or less than others, however this season the discrepancy is pronounced. With that said, I haven’t looked at previous seasons to see what the spread of travel distance looked like in the past as well.

Regardless, travel does take a toll on a club, and a club like Real Madrid—perennial favorites for the trophy—having to travel much more than rivals like PSG or City might have an effect later on in the tournament.

In the future it might be interesting to look at optimizing groups based on travel distance. Of course, the standard restrictions would still need to be followed—Russian/Ukrainian teams not in the same group, no clubs from the same country in a group, and one club from each pot in a group—but It is something to look into. But that’s a project for another day, a day when ESRI lowers their ArcGIS Pro license cost…

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