UEFA Europa Conference League is the third tier football competition, after the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League, organized by the Union of European Football Associations for European clubs.
The competition was introduced during the 2021-22 football season and Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma became its first-ever champions.
How do teams qualify for the UEFA Europa Conference League?
Interestingly, during its first edition, no teams directly qualified for the group stage of the Conference League. Rather, the 32 teams are decided through the following criteria:
- 17 teams from the UEFA Europa Conference League main path (it has teams that automatically qualify through their league stage finish).
- five teams from the UEFA Europa Conference League champions path (this includes all the league champions that did not qualify for the group stage).
- 10 teams eliminated in the UEFA Europa League play-offs
Apart from that, there are other ways for the teams from higher leagues to play in the competition. For instance, in England, the Carabao Cp winner gets a place in the Conference League.
However, if the winner has already qualified for either the Champions League or the Europa League, the spot goes to the next best team. In 2021-22, when Manchester City won the Carabao Cup, the Conference League spot went to Tottenham as City had already qualified for the Champions League.
Similarly, the distribution is done according to the UEFA coefficient ranking.
The format of the UEFA Europa Conference League is as similar as the other European competitions. As many as 32 clubs are divided into eight groups of four teams each. This is followed by the knockout play-offs, round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final.
Why was the Conference League introduced?
As UEFA quotes, the competition was introduced to ensure ‘at least 34 UEFA national associations are represented in the group stage of one or more competitions’.
Through the Conference League, between nine and 12 domestic champions that do not get a place in the Champions League and the Europa League due to their UEFA coefficient ranking will not get to play European football.
"There will be more matches for more clubs, with more associations represented in the group stages,” said UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin about the competition.
“There was a widespread demand by all clubs to increase their chances of participating more regularly in European competition," he added.
Like in the Champions League and the Europa League, teams participating in the Conference League get substantial prize money. Apart from that, the winner also gets a direct entry into next season’s Europa League if the route is not already secured.
UEFA Europa Conference League winners list
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Featured photo: AFP / Ozan Kose