There’s great news for anyone who thinks the Europa League is an unnecessary waste of time and resources: UEFA have ratified another European club competition!
Originally given the imaginative working title ‘Europa League 2’, the brand new tournament has been revealed as the UEFA Europa Conference League (UECL), and the incentive for ‘lesser’ clubs in England is that the winner of the Carabao Cup will earn a place in the UECL – albeit in the play-off phase, which takes place prior to the group stages.
However, that could be bad news for Premier League sides that genuinely try and win the second-tier domestic cup, as before they would have been rewarded with a place in the Europa League had they lifted the trophy.
If the winner of the EFL Cup qualifies for Europe through their league position as well, then it’s the team that finishes in sixth in the Premier League that will get first dibs on the UECL – or seventh if a top-six side lifts the EFL Cup.
Basically, four English teams will contest the Champions League and two will feature in the Europa League as per normal.
The first edition of the UEFA Europa Conference League will take place during the 2021-22 campaign, so you’ll just have to holster your excitement until then.
What is the UEFA Europa Conference League?
First discussed in December 2018, the object of the UEFA Europa Conference League is to give more teams a taste of continental competition – while streamlining, and perhaps improving the quality of, the Europa League, which will be cut from 48 to 32 participants. Teams that lose in the Europa League play-offs, prior to the tournament proper, will be added to the UECL draw.
The UECL will feature 32 teams in its group stages, and the action will take place on Thursday nights at the same time as the UEL. These 32 will be split into eight groups of four, and the top team in each will automatically progress to a knockout phase made up of a round of 16, quarter finals, semi finals and final. The other eight will be made up of winners from a special play-off round – the teams which finish second in each group will tackle the sides that finished third in their Europa League group, who will drop down.
The competition will feature the best teams from minor European countries, while giving domestic cup winners and those that finish lower in the elite continental divisions to also have a shot at playing football abroad. UEFA’s main aim was to make the European cups more welcoming, as confirmed by their president Aleksander Ceferin. He said:
“The new 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.
“This competition was born out of ongoing dialogue with clubs through the European Club Association.”
What are the carrots for involvement in the UEFA Europa Conference League? There’s a bit of prize money to negate the impacts of the hectic fixture schedule, while the team that wins the tournament will gain entry into the following season’s Europa League.