It's back -- and back more than ever. Thanks to the midseason World Cup, the Champions League group stage wraps up early this year, ending on Nov. 1. That means we've got Champions League action in six of the upcoming 10 weeks, including this week and next.

So, before the flurry begins, let's set the stage. I've ranked all 32 teams based on three separate factors: 1) their betting odds to win the whole thing, 2) the rating from the consultancy Twenty First Group, which takes player quality into account, and 3) the rating from ClubElo.com, which ranks teams purely based on their historical results. Here's how things look heading into matchday one.

 

32. Maccabi Haifa

I'm not saying that Josh Cohen is going be starting for the USMNT come Qatar. I am also not saying that he, a 30-year-old person you've very likely never heard of until right about now, will ever even get a cap for the national team. All I'm saying is that he's the defending Israeli player of the year, the U.S.'s goalkeeping situation isn't all that great right now, and a USMNT-eligible keeper is about to get the chance to make approximately 1 million high-profile saves against Mbappe and Messi over the next few weeks.

31. FC Copenhagen

Last week, Andreas Cornelius joined Copenhagen on a permanent basis for the third time in his career. He's 29 years old. I love this model. You let your star prospect move on, but whenever things don't work out, you basically keep a space open for him on the roster. Cornelius had one genuinely great season with Parma in 2019-20 and has otherwise disappointed for everyone outside of Copenhagen -- save for last season, when he was the leading scorer for Turkish champs Trabzonspor.

I hope this isn't the last time we see him back in Denmark.

 

30. Viktoria Plzen

These guys lost their leading scorer from last season to the Saudi league and now they get grouped with Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Inter Milan. Tough. So, what should their goal be? I know every coach wants his team to think they can win every game they can play, but c'mon. Four points from six games feels like a reasonable ambition, no?

 

29. Club Brugge

[Blows into a medieval bugle that both heralds everyone in earshot to stand at attention and also unfurls a giant flag with the CONCACAF logo on it]

American Owen Otasowie and Canadian Cyle Larin both play for Brugge -- er, maybe "are employed by" is the better phrasing. Through seven league matches, they've combined for just 144 minutes of game time.

 

28. Shakhtar Donetsk

After nine months off, Shakhtar played their first competitive game in nine months on Aug. 23, a scoreless draw against Metalist 1925 in an empty Olympic Stadium in Kiev. They're in the Champions League because they were top of the table in April when the domestic season was suspended after Russia invaded Ukraine. Any kind of analysis feels pretty silly because, well [gestures wildly at the state of the world]. But Brentford, probably the sharpest club across all the Big Five leagues, tried to sign Shakhtar's Mykhaylo Mudryk for big money of the summer.

Keep an eye out for him when you, like everyone else, root for Shakhtar over the next couple months.

 

27. Dinamo Zagreb

And here ends the bottom tier. While it wouldn't necessarily be a shock to see any of the other 26 teams make a run to the knockout rounds -- outside of, say, Rangers, because of how tough their group is -- this bottom six would all be Cinderellas were they still playing in this tournament after the World Cup.

Just in case you want to feel even more existential dread about the broken state of European soccer: Dinamo Zagreb have won the last five Croatian first-division titles, and 14 of the previous 15.

 

26. Sporting CP

While both Benfica and Porto are lighting up the Portuguese league like they normally do, Sporting have struggled so far this season: eight goals for, eight conceded, and seven points from five matches. On aggregate, Sporting have been a notch below the other two over the past decade. But although they came into this season with a much healthier chunk of their squad intact than their closest competitors, early signs suggest we'll be seeing more of the same this year.