A few years ago, UEFA announced that there would be a third competition for club football, to run from 2021 – 2024. The body confirmed the name as the ‘European Conference League‘ and a third-tier competition, with a lower prestige than the Europa League and the Champions League.
This competition being a new one means football fans are yet to identify with it. Although, the reason cited for establishing a new third-tier competition is to allow lowlier placed footballing nations to participate in Europe. We could still witness a European Conference League that features strong teams like Tottenham Hotspurs, As Roma and Villareal, if current league standings are maintained after matchday 38.
According to 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.”
Here is a detailed breakdown of everything you need to know about the newly created European Conference League.
What is the UEFA Europa Conference League?
This is a newly created third-tier European competition with lower prestige than the Champions League and the Europa League.
Thirty-two teams will participate in the group stage, with the top eight teams automatically qualifying for the round of 16. Then the last eight teams in the round of 16 will be decided through a playoff between the second-placed teams and the eight teams that finish third in the Europa League.
From there on, the quarter-finals, semifinals, and the final will follow the usual format.
Fans of top clubs that complain about their teams travelling long distances in the Europa League will have to prepare for longer trips, with teams from nations like the Faroe Islands, Albania, Estonia, and others.
With the introduction of the Conference League, at least 34 nations will have representatives in European football. An increase from 26 from the current format.
Who will be involved?
Representatives from participating leagues will join at either the second, third or final qualifying rounds depending on their league coefficient in UEFA rankings. There are no automatic slots for the group stage, and only the top five leagues get to have their representative join in the final qualifying round.
Here is a pip into how the representatives in the top five leagues will be decided.
The winners of the Carabao cup will represent the English Premier League. But in situations where the Carabao cup winners have already qualified for the Champions League or the Europa League via the league table, the slot will go to the seventh-placed team.
The Copa Del Rey winners have the Conference League slot in the La Liga. However, if a team wins the CDR and has already qualified for the UCL or the Europa League via the league standings, the slot will go to the seventh-placed team.
Villarreal currently occupies the seventh position in the La Liga, and they are in the Europa League final. If they win the Europa League, they will be elevated to the UCL, and the La Liga will not have a representative in the Conference League.
Since Juventus won the Coppa Italia and are currently on course to qualify for either the UCL or the Europa League by virtue of their league finish, the seventh placed team in the league qualifies for the league UEFA Europa Conference League.
Borussia Dortmund won the DFB Pokal and will qualify for the UCL or UEL based on the current league standings; this means that the UEFA Europa Conference League slot will go to the seventh-placed team.
PSG already sealed the Coupe de France this season, a slot reserved for Lique 1 representatives in the Conference League. According to the league standings, PSG will qualify to play in the UCL, which means the sixth-placed team will qualify for the UEFA Europa Conference League.
How will this affect the Champions League and Europa League?
Teams that exit the Champions League and the Europa League will have a chance to participate in the Conference League at the preliminary stages.
In the second qualifying round: 20 teams that have lost out from Champions League qualifying will get join
In the Playoff round: 8 teams that have exited the Europa League in the third qualifying round will join
In the Group stage: 10 teams that have exited the Europa League in the playoff round will join
In the Knockout stage: 8 third-placed teams from Europa League groups will join
With the emergence of the Conference league, the Europa League will only have a maximum of two teams from the top six leagues at the initial stage. The Europa Conference League title holders will join the Europa League from the 2022-23 season. Ten teams will join from the qualifying rounds and a further ten from the losers in Champions League qualification rounds.
Like the Conference League, the second-placed teams in the Europa League group stage will participate in a playoff with the third-placed team from the UCL in a bid to join the Europa League winners (who will skip this playoff round) in the round of 16.
When will the games hold?
The Conference League will be played on Thursdays at 4.30 p.m., 6.45 p.m. or 9 p.m. CET.
Will the winners have an automatic Europa League slot in the next season?
Yes, they will. In the same way that the Europa League winners automatically qualify for the Champions League, the UEFA Europa Conference League winners also have an automatic slot in the following season’s Europa League.
When will the UEFA Europa Conference League begin?
The qualifying round for minor nations will begin by June 15, 2021. However, the teams from the top leagues only get to join at the last qualifying round, which starts on August 19, 2021.