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What is the UEFA Europa Conference League?

Older readers will remember there used to be three European club competitions. The European Cup became the Champions League, the UEFA Cup continues, and it was the European Cup Winners Cup that bit the dust. The 2021/22 season will see the debut of the UEFA Europa Conference League (ECL). What’s it all about though? This article will tell you:

  • Why do we need a third European club competition?
  • How will this affect the Champions and Europa Leagues?
  • Who will be playing in the ECL?
  • What is the format of this competition?
  • When will the matches take place?
  • Where is the final?
  • Is there a bonus for winning the ECL?

Why do we need a third European Club competition?

There is already a crowded fixture list so why do we need another European club competition? The idea is that now at least 34 of the national associations that are UEFA will have a team in the group stages. 

Between nine and 12 domestic league champions will be in the group stages of this competition. UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin said: "The new UEFA club competition makes UEFA's club competitions more inclusive than ever before. There will be more matches for more clubs, with more associations represented in the group stages."

It’s likely though that clubs will field much weakened line-ups for matches with emphasis placed on their domestic leagues.

How will this affect the Champions and Europa Leagues?

There will still be the same number of teams in the group stages of the Champions League. However, the Europa League next season will have 32 teams in the groups rather than the current 48. There will be eight groups with the winners going into the last 16. Before that round takes place, the eight group runners-up take on the eight third-ranked teams in the Champions League group stages. 

This means two changes are taking place. At present, the first knock-out round of the Europa League is the last 32. The teams finishing third in their Champions League groups currently automatically go into the Europa League last 32. Now they will have to play a play-off round to get to the last 16.

Who will take part in the ECL?

There will be 184 clubs competing in the first ever UEFA Europa Conference League. Each of the 55 associations that are UEFA members will have at least one club participating. 46 of the clubs who will take part will have been transferred from either the Champions League or the Europa League after early exits from those competitions.

The association ranking determines how many teams a country will have in this competition. That is based on the UEFA country coefficients. Those ranked 1 to 5 will have one team, those ranked 6 to 15 get two, the countries ranked 16 to 50 have three and those ranked 51-55 will have two teams qualifying. Liechtenstein don’t have a domestic league so the winners of the Liechtenstein Football Cup will qualify.

The teams placed sixth in Serie A, La Liga and the Bundesliga will go into the ECL. In Ligue 1, it’s the side finishing 5th. For Portugal, it is the teams finishing fourth and fifth, whereas it’s 3rd and 4th in the Turkish Super Lig. Whoever finishes third in the Dutch Eredivisie will go into the ECL. In the English Premier League, it is the EFL Cup winners who qualify. If they are already in another competition next season, then the side sixth in the Premier League qualify.

What is the format of the ECL?

As with the current two European club competitions, there will be qualifying rounds before the group stages. Three qualifying rounds will take place and then a play-off round. The latter will be split between a main path and a champions path for those who had started the season in the two other club competitions.

A major difference in this competition is that no clubs will automatically qualify for the group stages. There will be eight groups of four and the 32 teams will consist of:

  • 17 teams from the ECL main path
  • 5 Teams from the ECL champions path
  • 10 teams from those beaten in the Europa League play-offs.

How do you qualify for the knockout stages?

There will be 16 teams taking part in the knockout stages. The eight group winners will automatically qualify. To determine the other eight qualifiers, there will be a play-off round. This sees the eight second placed teams and the eight group and the clubs that finish third in the Europa League groups. Normally, those teams would see their European season end but now there’s a second chance.

When will the matches take place?

Just like the Europa League, this competition will see its games played on a Thursday. Matches will start at 18:45 CET and 21:00 CET.

  • First qualifying round: 8 & 15 July
  • Second qualifying round: 22 & 29 July
  • Third qualifying round: 5 & 12 August
  • Play-offs: 19 & 26 August
  • Group stage: 16 & 30 September, 21 October, 4 & 25 November, 9 December
  • Knockout round play-offs: 17 & 24 February
  • Round of 16: 10 & 17 March
  • Quarter-finals: 7 & 14 April
  • Semi-finals: 28 April & 5 May
  • Final: 25 May 

Where does the Final take place?

The first ECL final will take place on May 25, 2022. It will be played at the National Arena in Tirana, Albania. That’s despite the fact the stadium only has a capacity of 21,690. Getting a ticket for that match isn’t going to be easy.

Is there a bonus for winning this competition?

The winners of the UEFA Conference League will go into the group stage of the next Europa League if not already qualified for the Champions League.

We look set for more thrilling games in this new competition, You can rest assured that at Sportytrader our team of betting experts will be previewing all the top games in this competition all the way to the final in Tirana.

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