Europa Conference League: Everything you Need to Know About the Newly Introduced UEFA Competition
A third European club tournament is coming and the Millennial Agora has all the details to get you excited about the new Europa Conference League.
European Football is changing. The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has decided to make a new addition to its two existing major club competitions (Champions League and Europa League), a third-tier annual tournament called Europa Conference League. UEFA’s goal with the creation of the UECL is to enable more clubs, even from lower-ranking European countries to compete on a continental level of football, therefore making its club tournaments “more inclusive than ever before”, as quoted by UEFA’s President Alexander Seferin. Here is a summary of the UECL’s structure and modalities:
How Does the Tournament Work?
The 2021 UECL will normally feature 32 teams divided into 8 groups of 4 teams each, although no team will be able to qualify for its group stages directly. All sides will have to pass through at least one qualifying round, depending on their country’s UEFA Coefficient Rank and their position in their respective domestic league and/or cup.
An additional preliminary knockout stage will take place after the group stage is concluded. In that round, the eight runners-up from each group will have to face the teams coming from the Europa League that finish third in their respective groups, in order to proceed at the round of 16.
The final of the 2022 Europa Conference League will be held at the Air Albania Stadium in Tirana on the 25th of May. Whoever wins the trophy will have his very own spot at the group stages of next year’s Europa League (that is, if they do not manage to qualify for the Champions League during the year).
How Many Teams Does each Country Send to the UECL?
à The countries currently ranking 1st to 5th position of the UEFA Country Coefficients List will only be able to send one club each to the tournament. These countries are England, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France.
*Spain will not have any team qualify for this season because the team that had qualified for the UECL (Villareal CF) won the Europa League, meaning they will be at the Champions League group stages when the season begins.
à Countries ranking 6th to 15th will each provide two of their clubs for the new European cup. The countries are Portugal, The Netherlands, Russia, Belgium, Austria, Scotland, Ukraine, Turkey, Denmark, and Cyprus.
à Next up, leagues from which three clubs are allowed to participate in the UECL preliminary groups are from the countries ranking 16th to 50th, with an exception for Liechtenstein, which will be sending only one team. The rest of the countries are Serbia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Switzerland, Greece, Israel, Norway, Sweden, Bulgaria, Romania, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Hungary, Belarus, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Ireland, North Macedonia, Armenia, Latvia, Albania, Northern Ireland, Georgia, Finland, Moldova, Malta, Faroe Islands, Kosovo, Gibraltar and Montenegro.
à Finally, the bottom five leagues of Wales, Iceland, Estonia, Andorra and San Marino will each have two teams competing in the tournament’s preliminary rounds.
How will the Clubs be Entering the Competition?
A total of 181 teams will have to face each other in order to claim a spot in the 2022 UECL. The clubs which are eliminated in the preliminary and qualifying rounds of the Champions League, and clubs eliminated in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League will transfer to the Europa Conference League. The 2nd and 3rd qualifying rounds, and the play-off round of the Europa Conference League are split into two paths: one for teams that are domestic champions and one for the non-champions.
As the default access list states, the title holder of the UECL should qualify for the Europa League group stage, although this being the inauguration year for the new tournament, the default access list will undergo a slight alteration. For this season, cup winners from association 16 (Anorthosis Ammochostou, Cyprus) will be entering the Europa League instead of the Conference League, so the cup winners from associations 30 (Slovan Bratislava, Slovakia) and 31 (FC Vaduz, Liechtenstein) will be entering the second, and not the first qualifying round of the ECL.
As previously mentioned, Villareal CF (Spain) recently won the Europa League, securing their spot in this season’s Champions League. This brings more changes to the tournament’s access list, meaning that cup winners of associations 17 (FC Luzern, Switzerland) and 18 (PAOK FC, Greece) will enter the third qualifying round instead of the second, and domestic cup winners of associations 32 (Olimpija Ljubljana, Slovenia), 33 (Újpest FC, Hungary), 34 (*Luxembourg) and 35 (*Lithuania) enter the second qualifying round instead of the first qualifying round.
The rest of the teams will enter the qualifying rounds as following:
First Qualifying Round (single path):
Cup winners from associations 36 to 55.
League runners-up from associations 30 to 55 (Except Liechtenstein)
League third-placed teams from associations 29 to 50 Except Liechtenstein)
Second Qualifying Round (champions path):
Teams eliminated from the UCL preliminary round.
Teams eliminated from the UCL 1st qualifying round.
Second Qualifying Round (non-champions path):
Cup winners from associations 19 to 35.
League runners-up from associations 16 to 29.
League third-placed teams from associations 13 to 28.
Fourth-placed teams from associations 7 to 15.
The fifth-placed team from association 6
33 Winners from the 1st qualifying round.
Third Qualifying Round (champions path):
The eliminated team from the UCL 1st qualifying round.
Winners from the champions path in the 2nd qualifying round.
Third Qualifying Round (main path):
Cup winners from associations 17 and 18.
League third-placed teams from associations 7 to 12.
The fourth-placed teams from association 6.
45 winners from the 2nd qualifying round.
Play-Off Round (champions path):
Teams eliminated from the UEL third qualifying round (champ. path)
Winners from the champions path in the 3rd qualifying round.
Play-Off Round (main path):
The fifth-placed team from association 5.
The 7th placed teams from associations 1-4
27 Winners from the 3rd qualifying round (main path)
Teams eliminated from UEL 3rd qualifying round (main path)
**-1 UEL Winner (Villareal CF)
In the Group Stage, along with the 22 winners coming from the play-off round, will be 10 teams coming from the UEL, eliminated from its respective play-off round.
When are the Games?
The first qualifying round will be played between the 8th and 15th of July.
The second qualifying round will be played between the 22nd and the 29th of July.
The third qualifying round will be played between the 5th and 12th of August.
The play-offs will be played between the 19th and 26th of August.
The group stage matches will begin September 16th.
The final two teams will face each other in Tirana (Albania) on the 25th of May 2022, for a chance to lift the newest European football trophy, and secure their spot at the next season’s UEL group stage.
Will the UECL meet with UEFA’s expectations and provide quality football to fans all over Europe?
One can only wait and see.