Discover the latest European football competition: the UEFA Conference League
In addition to the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League, football fans can now also indulge in a third competition that UEFA will be organizing from the 2021-2022 season.
Also in this third tournament, clubs compete at European level.
The origins of the UEFA Conference League
UEFA also wanted to give a number of countries that are currently not competing at the top level of football the opportunity to play at European level in a football competition. Since 1999, when the Cup competition for cup winners was abolished, many teams have not had enough work. As early as 2015 there was talk of establishing a third series of competitions to also offer the ‘lesser’ teams wider options. In 2021 the time has finally come.
Who participates in the Europa Conference League?
55 football associations participate in the Conference League. Matches are played between the different clubs, with the winner being directly selected for the next season’s Europa League.
The 55 associations are listed on the so-called UEFA ranking, in which they are ranked on the basis of their playing performance. Depending on their place in this ranking, the federations may delegate one or more clubs.
- The countries with number 1 to number 5 in the ranking: 1 club
- The countries with number 6 to number 15 in the ranking: 2 clubs
- The countries with number 16 to number 50 in the ranking: 3 clubs
- The countries with number 51 to number 55 in the ranking: 2 clubs
What is the Europa Conference League like?
The principle of this new European football competition is similar to the other two UEFA Leagues. A number of qualified clubs compete for first place in three preliminary rounds, a play-off round and a main tournament.
The overview below of the different rounds that are played and the number of teams that participate in these rounds gives a clear picture of how the entire competition is played:
First qualifying round: 72 teams
- 26 cup winners from the countries number 30 to number 55 in the UEFA ranking
- 25 numbers 2 of the countries number 30 to number 55 in the UEFA ranking
- 21 numbers 3 of the countries number 29 to number 50 in the UEFA ranking
Second qualifying round:
in this round, teams from the first qualifying round play against teams from the Champions League and teams from the Europa League:
Champions (20 teams):
- 17 losers from the first qualifying round of the Champions League
- 3 losers from the preliminary round of the Champions League
Non-Champions (90 teams): new teams will play in this round against teams from the first qualifying round:
- 14 cup winners from the countries number 16 to number 29 in the UEFA ranking
- 14 numbers 2 of the countries number 16 to number 29 in the UEFA ranking
- 16 numbers 3 of the countries number 13 to number 28 in the UEFA ranking
- 9 numbers 4 of the countries number 7 to 15 in the UEFA ranking
- 1 number 5 of country with the number 6 in the UEFA ranking
- 36 winners of the first qualifying round
Third qualifying round:
in this third and final qualifying round, new clubs play against winning clubs from the second qualifying round:
Champions (10 teams):
- 10 winners of the second qualifying round
Non-Champions (52 teams):
- 6 numbers 3 of the countries number 7 to number 12 in the UEFA ranking
- 1 No. 4 in the country with No. 6 on the UEFA ranking
- 45 winners of the second qualifying round
In the play-off round, new teams play against the winners of the third qualifying round and the losers from the Europa League:
Champions (10 teams):
- 5 winners of the third qualifying round
- 5 losers from the third qualifying round of the Europa League
Non-Champions (34 teams):
- 1 number 5 of country with number 5 in the UEFA ranking
- 4 numbers 6 of the countries number 1 to number 4 in the UEFA ranking
- 26 winners of the third qualifying round
- 3 losers from the third qualifying round of the Europa League
In the final leg of the competition, teams from the previous rounds will play against losers from the Europa League play-off round:
Group stage (32 teams: 8 groups of 4 teams each). Each team plays an away game and a home game against each of the three other clubs in the group.
- 5 winners of the play-off round (Champions)
- 17 winners of the play-off round (Non-Champions)
- 10 losers from the Europa League play-off round
Intermediate round (16 teams)
- 8 numbers 2 of the group stage
- 8 numbers 3 of the group stage
Eighth final (16 teams)
- 8 numbers 1 of the group stage
- 8 intermediate round winners
What are the consequences of this third competition on our Belgian football teams?
There are a number of disadvantages, but also a number of advantages to the Conference League for our Belgian teams.
Due to the fact that teams enter the competition that have a lower level of play, fewer supporters may be inclined to come to see the matches, which could mean a possible drop in ticket sales. On the other hand, teams with a certain level may be more certain to advance further in the competition. However, the game still has to be played. It wouldn’t be the first time the underdog has shown a surprising side!
What is a big disadvantage of this new competition is that 3 out of 5 European tickets for Belgian teams decrease in value. The national champion can still go directly to the Champions League and the number two is also certain of a place in the third qualifying round.
But things do change for the third ticket, that of the cup winner. Instead of a direct selection for the Europa League, this team must first play a preliminary round. If they lose, they get a place in the Conference League. The team that is ranked third also does not play in the Europa League, but can instead participate in the penultimate preliminary round of the Conference League. This also counts for the winning team of the match between the winner of the play-off and the club that is currently in fourth place. This team will receive the fifth European ticket for the second qualifying round of the Conference League, but will not participate in the Europa League.
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