The 2021/22 football season will see the addition of a brand-new competition, the Europa Conference League (UECL). It will run alongside the Champions League and Europa League, both of whom will remain in place. A total of 184 teams will compete in the competition including the qualification rounds which get underway in July.
What is the UEFA Conference League?
The competition is a new initiative from the governing body of European football to extend the opportunities of competing in continental competitions. The pool of teams eligible to be involved will be drawn from a much wider number of football associations. This includes those ranked as low as 55 based on their coefficient. Nations such as England, Germany, Italy and France will have representatives too, but the majority of teams will be from countries with a coefficient outside the top 16.
Naturally, popular betting sites in Australia and other big markets like the EU and USA including Bet365, Unibet, etc. are still likely to favour teams who represent the high-profile domestic competitions such as the Premier League, Bundesliga or Serie A. However, it does offer a chance for teams from lower-profile nations to compete on the European stage – which might have previously been near-impossible given their countries’ ranking overall. This will no doubt increase Uefa’s reputation in those countries who previously had little to no chance.
How Does it Work?
There are a total of four qualification rounds in place before a standard group stage gets underway. Teams will enter at various stages depending on factors including;
- Their football association’s coefficient according to UEFA
- If they have won a domestic trophy the previous season
- The phase at which they are eliminated from one of the other UEFA competitions
For example, whichever English team qualifies via their league position will only become involved at the final play-off stage. Other teams may have played six games to reach that particular round if they entered at the earliest possible point.
Once the 32 teams for the group stage are decided, the winners will automatically advance to the last 16. Those that finish in second place will compete for a spot against 8 sides that finish third in their respective Europa League groups, bringing in another fresh set of teams. This mechanic is similar to the one UEFA have previously employed to transfer teams eliminated from the Champions League into the Europa League after the group stage.
After the last 16 teams are decided, it will be a straight knockout phase to determine the winner. Matches will be played on Thursdays in staggered kick-off time slots, similar to the Europa League. Given that Tuesday and Wednesdays are already dedicated to the Champions League, this seems the only reasonable option without infringing on the fixture lists of domestic leagues.
Who Has Already Qualified for It?
The seventh placed finishers from the Premier League each season will qualify, making Tottenham Hotspur the first English representatives for the upcoming campaign, courtesy of their win over Leicester City on the final matchday. Provided they come through the two-legged play-off round unscathed, the north London club will progress to the group phase.
A host of other teams from Europe’s top domestic leagues have also secured their places already. Union Berlin will be the first German representatives while AS Roma and Rennes will represent Italy and France respectively. They will also enter at the final play-off stage.
A round earlier, the third phase of qualifying, will see the introduction of teams including; Rubin Kazan, Anderlecht, Trabzonspor, PAOK, Vitesse. The second round includes sides such as Feyenoord, Hibernian, Aberdeen, Copenhagen, FC Basel and Gent.