It’s been less than a month since the first UEFA Europa Conference League match was played. However, the competition still elicits fierce debate amongst football fans, pundits, and bookmakers in UK and beyond. Many football enthusiasts are yet to understand what the competition is all about. So, here’s all you need to know about UEFA’s latest brainchild:
What’s the Europa Conference League?
The Europa Conference League is the third-tier club competition below the Champions League and the Europa League. UEFA inaugurated the competition to rope more clubs into the continental scene. It will run alongside the Champions League and Europa League.
The top two UEFA club tournaments primarily involved better funded and known teams. The inaugural competition will incorporate clubs from more countries, thus making UEFA’s club tournaments more inclusive.
Originally named “Europa League 2” as a tentative working title, the Conference League aims to give teams from smaller nations and associations an opportunity to play in Europe. Thus, it’s no surprise that hitherto unknown clubs such as Sochi FC participated in the tournament. Such a team would probably never have had the opportunity to participate in the elite UEFA club competitions.
Participation in the UEFA Conference League
According to UEFA, 184 teams will get involved in the Europa Conference League in its inaugural season. At least one team will be drawn from the 55 national associations, while 46 clubs will drop down from the Europa League or Champions League.
This season, the Europa League group stage has been cut back to 32 teams from 48. This idea is to make it harder to qualify for the second-tier UEFA competition so that more quality teams get relegated to the Europa Conference League. In the 2021-2022 season, ten teams eliminated from the Europa League play-offs will automatically drop down to the Conference League.
How the Conference League Will Work
For the most part, the Conference League will be for winners of domestic cup competitions in their respective countries. There will be three qualifying rounds as well as a play-off round before the group stage. Teams dropping down from the Champions League and Europa League will have a champions path.
UEFA has released an access list that outlines the teams that will participate in the competition and which round they will enter the competition.
Besides, the list explains how clubs will transfer from the Champions League and Europa League into the Conference League.
No team will qualify automatically for the group stage. However, the 32 teams at the group stage will comprise of:
- 17 teams drawn from the Conference League main path
- Five teams drawn from the Conference league champions path
- Ten teams eliminated from the Europa League play-offs
Like the case with the top two UEFA competitions, the group stage of the inaugural Conference League will comprise eight groups of four teams. The group stage will be followed by knockout round games, the round of 16, quarters, semis, and the final. Albania’s capital, Tirana, will host the inaugural final of the UEFA Europa Conference League on 25th May 2022.
Matches will be played on Thursdays on the same days as the Europa League matches. Nonetheless, kick-off will be at 5.45 pm and 8.00 pm. The group stage of the competition will run from 16th September to 9th December 2021. Punters are excited about the competition because it promises more opportunities to make money by betting on their favorite teams.
What Does the Europa Conference League Winner Get?
Traditionally, winners of the Europa League get an automatic slot in the following season’s Champions League group stage. On their part, Europa Conference League winners will qualify for the following year’s Europa League unless they qualify for the higher-ranked Champions League via domestic competition.
Europa Conference League winners will avoid the Europa League qualifiers and head straight to the group stage. Thus, this format follows the promotion system that UEFA had in place for its club competitions.
It remains to be seen if teams across Europe will embrace the Conference League. It’s only in recent years that clubs started taking the Europa League seriously. Previously, most clubs fielded weakened sides in the competition until bigger teams started participating in it. Nevertheless, the allure of winning a European cup may prove to be a draw in the Conference League.
What the Conference League Means to Punters
Previously, it was common to come across punters betting on football matches in far-flung areas such as the Americas. However, the UEFA Conference League promises to bring the action closer to home since you can wage your money on familiar teams such as Tottenham Hotspurs and AS Roma taking part in the inaugural tournament.