Liverpool, Tottenham, Everton, Arsenal and several other clubs may find themselves in UEFA’s new Conference League competition next season. But just what is it?
What is it?
The UEFA Europa Conference League will be the third UEFA club competition and run alongside both the Champions League and Europa League.
The idea behind the Europa Conference League is to give more clubs a taste of European football, particularly sides from countries that struggle to qualify for the other two UEFA competitions. But there’s a spot up for grabs for English clubs, too.
Who qualifies from the Premier League?
It’s looking increasingly likely the seventh-placed Premier League team will qualify.
The winner of the Carabao Cup was guaranteed to qualify for the Europa Conference League play-off round. But after Manchester City lifted the trophy – having already secured a place in the Champions League qualifying spot – their place will be passed on to the next highest-ranked Premier League side which has not qualified for a UEFA competition.
Meanwhile, Chelsea face Leicester in the FA Cup final and both of those sides are currently in the top four in the Premier League. If they stay there, they will qualify for the Champions League, meaning the Europa League qualifying spot for winning the FA Cup will be passed on to the next highest-ranked Premier League side which has not qualified for a UEFA competition.
Provided Chelsea and Leicester remain in the top five – or Thomas Tuchel’s side go on to lift the Champions League – the Premier League’s seventh-placed team will qualify for the Europa Conference League next season.
Will fixtures be on Thursdays?
Yes. The Europa League and Europa Conference League fixtures will both take place on Thursdays, with kick-offs at 5.45pm and 8pm UK time.
The competition is set to get under way in 2021/22 and run throughout the 2021/24 cycle at least.
How does it work?
There will be a First Qualifying Round, Second Qualifying Round, Third Qualifying Round and then a Play-Off round before the Group Stage.
The English team will enter at the Play-Off round, a two-legged affair on August 19 and August 26. The Premier League season starts on the weekend of August 14.
The eight group winners automatically go through to the last 16. Additional knockout round play-offs will then be played before the round of 16 between the eight group runners-up and the third-ranked teams of the Europa League groups.
Qualifying round dates
|Phase||First leg||Second leg|
|First Qualifying||July 8||July 15|
|Second Qualifying (Scottish teams enter)||July 22||July 29|
|Third Qualifying||August 5||August 12|
|Play-offs (English team enters)||August 19||August 26|
This means if an English team reaches the Europa Conference League final, they will play an additional 15 games, or 17 games if they finish second in their group.
Group stage dates
|Matchday 1||September 16|
|Matchday 2||September 30|
|Matchday 3||October 21|
|Matchday 4||November 4|
|Matchday 5||November 25|
|Matchday 6||December 9|
The final will take place on May 25 in Tirana, Albania.
Knockout phase dates
|Phase||First leg||Second leg|
|Knockout play-offs||February 17||February 24|
|Round of 16||March 10||March 17|
|Quarter-finals||April 7||April 14|
|Semi-finals||April 28||May 5|
The new structure for UEFA club competitions will ensure at least 34 UEFA national associations are represented in the group stage of one or more competitions.
Spain, England, Germany, Italy and France all get one team, while Scotland, Portugal, Netherlands, Russia and Belgium get two.
What does this mean for Scottish teams?
Already lodged firmly in third and fourth place in the Scottish Premiership respectively, Hibernian and Aberdeen have already qualified for next season’s Europa Conference League, joining at the Second Qualifying Round.
Those games will be played on July 22 and July 29. The Scottish Premiership season starts on the weekend of July 31.