What is the new Europa Conference League?
The third-round qualifiers for the first ever season of the Europa Conference League, are currently underway.
Over 100 teams you’ve probably not even heard of or have rarely succeeded in qualifying for the Europa League or Champions League, are playing for a place in the Group stages and the chance of winning the brand new trophy and qualification to the Europa League Group Stages next year.
It’s not every day that a new sports tournament or European football contest is created and we’re diving deeper into how this new Europa Conference League works.
If you’re a fan of teams like Tobol, Qarabag or the Maltese Hibernians or you just want to know what all the fuss is about. We’ve also given you all the dates you need, to keep track of the action!
A new league?
The concept of a third-tier contest for European club football, has been on the European football governing body’s radar since 2018.
The European Club Association President Andrea Agnelli confirmed during his address at the ECA Biannual general meeting that same year that,
‘Pending approval of the Uefa executive committee, the green light has been given to introduce a third competition, bringing the overall number of clubs to 96, as of the 2021/22 season.’
This would include reducing the number of teams in the Europa League from 48 to 32 and thus equalising the numbers of teams qualifying to compete across the Europa League, Champions League and now, Europa Conference League.
The governing body has been aiming to make European club football contests more representative and inclusive.
This new league will allow for more weaker European league teams to compete and thus increase the representation of at least 34 national football associations across all three of the European football contests.
This means that between the Qualifying stage and the Group Stage, 184 teams would be involved over the course of the 2021/22 season, providing at least 1 team representing each of the 55 recognised national football associations.
Paths to victory?
There will be no direct qualification for the Group Stage in September.
Teams competing in the Group Stages are made up of competitors who make it through three rounds of draws and qualifiers and eventual Play-Offs. Teams competing directly in the Conference League are split into two paths; Main Path and Champions Path.
Main path – Teams which enter the Conference League as domestic Cup Winners, runners up, 3rd, 4th or 5th placed teams in domestic leagues.
Champions Path: – Teams that are eliminated from the preliminary rounds of the Champions League and Europa League. These teams can be entered during the three qualifying rounds for the Conference League and can then compete for a place in the Group Stage.
This impressive number of teams will be whittled down to just 32 at the beginning of the Group Stage on 16th September.
This collection of teams will be drawn once more to create 8 Groups of 4 teams each. The teams making up of the groups will consist of 5 winners from the ‘Champions Path’, 17 winners from the ‘Main Path’ and 10 additional teams that were eliminated from the Europa League Play-Offs.
What follows is a series of 6 Matchdays before a further Knock-out Play-Off in February. The Knockout includes 8 runners up from the Group Stage along with 8 Group runners up from the Europe League.
March kicks off with the Round of 16, Quarter Finals in April and Semi-Finals in May. Then, we breathlessly reach the Final at the National Arena in Tirana on the 25th May.
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If you’ve stayed this long, you clearly found this interesting and for that we’re going to reward you with some facts you can share with your friends.
1: The first goal of the new Europa Conference League was scored by Mosta F.C’s Evo Christ Ememe on July 6th. The goal was scored in the 23rd minute of the Maltese side’s match against Spartak Trnava.
2: The tournament Champions will win prize money of €5,000,000. In comparison, Europa League winners will pocket €8,600,000 while Champions League winners walk away with a whopping €19,000,000.
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Dates for your Diary!
First qualifying round draw: 15 June
Second qualifying round draw: 16 June
First qualifying round: 8 & 15 July
Third qualifying round draw: 19 July
Second qualifying round: 22 & 29 July
Play-off round draw: 2 August
Third qualifying round: 5 & 12 August
Play-offs: 19 & 26 August
Group stage draw: 27 August
Group stage: 16 & 30 September, 21 October, 4 & 25 November, 9 December