One of Spurs, West Ham, Everton or Arsenal may find themselves in UEFA’s new Europa Conference League in 2021/22. 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?
The seventh-placed Premier League team will qualify.
That is currently Spurs, on 59 points, but West Ham (62 points) could drop into seventh if they lose their final game against Southampton and Spurs beat Leicester. Everton (59 points) and Arsenal (58 points) could also move into seventh. Everton go to champions Man City on Sunday, while Arsenal host Brighton.
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.
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.
The final will take place on May 25 in Tirana, Albania.
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.
Among the teams already qualified are Vitesse, Basel, AEK Athens, Rubin Kazan, BATE Borisov and Rosenborg.
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. Hibernian, however, will qualify for the Europa League play-off round if they beat St Johnstone in the Scottish Cup final on May May 22