The UEFA Europa League has been making a name in the world of football as a competing alternative to the UEFA Champions League, producing the same excitement and thrill for fans.
It’s not just the title that the 48 teams competing are after; the team who takes home the title will also earn an automatic spot in the UEFA Champions League the following season.
How Things Have Changed Since the Tournament Started
The tournament started its first season in 1871/72 and was called the UEFA Cup up until 2009, when the name was changed to UEFA Europa League to try and increase profits. When it first started, it was just a pure knockout tournament which saw 40 teams competing home and away for the final two spots.
Until 1997/98, the final was played over two rounds before moving to a one-off match.
When the 2004/04 season came around, they adopted group stages which saw all the teams divided into eight groups of five.
This tournament’s group stages differed from the Champions League group stages, with the teams playing a single round-robin format. What this means is that each team plays two home games and two away games rather than a double-header home and away.
The top three teams in the eight groups and the eight third-place teams in the UEFA Champions League will move forward to the UEFA Europa League knockout round.
After that, two-legged knockout matches were played until a one-off final, often played on a Wednesday in May, one week before the Champions League final.
In the 2009/10 season, the tournament added eight additional spots in the group stages to increase the number of teams to 48. The groups increased to 12, with each group having four teams playing a round-robin tournament.
The winners and runners-up from the group stages then qualified for the round of 32. The eight third-place teams from the UEFA Champions League also made their way to the round of 32.
The rest of the tournament would run as normal, with the round of 32 changing to the round of 16, then the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and then the finals.
How Does UEFA Select The Teams?
As mentioned above, everything changed after 2009. All teams will either qualify due to their final standing in their respective domestic leagues or their performance in cup competitions.
The teams who rank higher in the UEFA coefficients are the ones who get to start later in the qualifying rounds, with four rounds in total.
The results of the teams representing each association throughout the past five UEFA Europa League and UEFA Champions League seasons serve as the basis for the intricate coefficient system.
You’ve got the teams that qualify directly to compete in the Europa League. Still, you also get the six losing teams eliminated from the Champions League qualifying matches who get a second chance to compete for a European championship in the Europa League. These teams will be divided into group stages.
Let’s take a look at the breakdown of the 48 teams that qualify:
- First, 17 teams qualify for the group stages because of their club association and coefficients.
- The 21 teams from the UEFA Europa League qualifying matches.
- After that, you have six losing teams from the UEFA Champions League fourth qualifying round.
- And lastly, four non-domestic cup-winning losers from the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round.
What Happens To The Qualifying Teams?
All the qualifying teams get split into four groups which are referred to as ‘pots’. Each one of the pots has a ranking system from one to four.
The club with the highest rated coefficient will be put into pot one, so it will continue going down the coefficient ratings, with the second highest being placed in pot two and so on.
Once all the teams have been placed in the pots, different teams are then drawn until there are 12 groups of four. Pairing teams from the same association is not allowed.
Even though it’s not the UEFA Champions League, the Europa League has seen sufficient success over the years, with fans of the league growing. The wonderful aspect of the Europa League is the hidden talent some of the clubs have, not to mention the rising stars that can make their mark in the UEFA Champions League one day.
With that said, Neds is a wonderful place for all the information about teams and upcoming fixtures.