There will be a third season-long UEFA men’s football club competition for the first time in more than 20 years, when the UEFA Europa Conference League (ECL) begins from the 2021-22 season. There will be as many as 184 teams who will participate in the new league, starting from the qualifying rounds.
The Europa League will now be a 32-team tournament instead of 48, and thus, the newly-formed ECL offers high quality European football to teams which are considered just outside the elite of Europe. Apart from the obvious European silverware, the team winning the final of the ECL will secure automatic qualification to the Europa League group stage next season.
Let’s deep dive into the idea of the UEFA Europa Conference League.
The ECL is the new third-tier continental competition in the European club football system, after the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. It will run alongside those two competitions, starting from the 2021-22 campaign. The initial idea of a third-tier European competition was spoken about in 2015 but it was approved by the UEFA Executive Committee in 2018. This new structure gives exposure to European football and to different clubs across the continent.
Before the group stage, there will be three qualifying rounds and a play-off round. As the competition is aimed at giving smaller countries more group-stage football, only five clubs will come from the top leagues – all of which will enter in the final qualifying round. The lowest-ranked team in each of these national domestic leagues will switch from the Europa League to the Conference League.
No team will qualify automatically for the group stage, and only the five nations from the top leagues would start in the final qualifying round. As Villarreal won the Europa League, they will play in the Champions League and Spain will have no representative in the Europa Conference League this year.
Teams that lose in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League and Europa League will filter down to the ECL, competing for a spot in this newly formed league. There will be plenty of teams that will be added to the competition as late as the knockout stages as well.
Here’s how it works:
Second qualifying round: 20 clubs that fail to qualify to the Champions League enter
Playoff round: 8 clubs who lost from Europa League third-qualifying round enter
Group stage: 10 clubs who lose the Europa League playoff round enter
Knockout stage: 8 third-placed teams from Europa League groups enter
NEED FOR UEFA EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE
There are plenty of pundits out there asking the need for this sort of a competition structure and in its defence, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said in the official website: “There will be more matches for more clubs, with more associations represented in the group stages. There was a widespread demand by all clubs to increase their chances of participating more regularly in European competition.”
The winner will also gain a place in the following season’s UEFA Europa League group stage if they have not qualified for the UEFA Champions League via their domestic competition. The final of its inaugural season would be played on May 25, 2022 at the National Arena, Tirana.
Read: UEFA Euro 2020: Favourites To Win the Coveted Crown.
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