Europa Conference League: What is new competition and who can qualify?


or all the focus on who will qualify for the Champions League and Europa League respectively on a busy final day of Premier League action this weekend, there is a new, third-string Uefa tournament set to be debuted next season that will include one team from the English top-flight.

Here is everything you need to know about the Uefa Europa Conference League at this stage…

What is the the Europa Conference League?

The Europa Conference League is a new European football club competition first announced by Uefa in 2019 that will run for the first time during the 2021/22 season and last until at least 2024.

It will rank as the third most prestigious club competition in Europe, following the Champions League and Europa League respectively, aimed at increasing inclusivity in European football and offering more opportunities for clubs from smaller Uefa member associations.

The winners will be awarded a place in the following season’s Europa League group stage.

How the Europa Conference League works

The Europa Conference League, featuring oft-maligned Thursday night fixtures all too familiar to those with any experience of the Europa League, will consist of four qualifying rounds ahead of the group stage, including a play-off round, with a massive 184 teams involved at some point.

The competition proper is set to feature 32 teams split into eight groups of four, with the group winners automatically then qualifying for the last 16.

However, the runners-up from each group will not go straight through and instead have to battle the teams that finish third in their respective groups during next season’s Europa League, which is reducing from 48 to 32 teams.

The winners of those ties will complete the last-16 lineup, with quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final – the first of which will be held at the National Arena in Tirana, Albania in May 2022 – to follow.

When does the Europa Conference League start?

The two-legged first qualifying round is currently scheduled to take place across July 8 and July 15, while the first final is on May 22.

Here are all the key Europa Conference League dates, courtesy of Uefa’s official website…

First qualifying round: 8 and 15 July

Second qualifying round: 22 and 29 July

Third qualifying round: 5 and 12 August

Play-off round: 19 and 26 August

Group stage match dates: 16 and 30 September, 21 October, 4 and 25 November, 9 December

Knockout round play-offs: 17 and 24 February

Round of 16: 10 and 17 March

Quarter-finals: 7 and 14 April

Semi-finals: 28 April and 5 May

Who can qualify for the Europa Conference League?

In the Premier League, seventh place will cement a berth in the inaugural competition.

Tottenham are currently in possession of that spot heading into Sunday’s final round of 2020/21 fixtures, though will still harbour hopes of Europa League qualification if they can beat Champions League-chasing Leicester and sixth-place West Ham lose at home to Southampton.

In that scenario, West Ham would go into the Europa Conference League.

Also chasing seventh are Everton and Arsenal, currently eighth and ninth respectively and separated by only one point.

Everton are level on points with Spurs and behind the north Londoners only by virtue of an inferior goal difference heading into Sunday’s tricky trip to champions Manchester City.

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