There will be a third season-long UEFA men’s football club competition for the first time in more than 20 years next season when the UEFA Europa Conference League begins. We explain who will be involved and when games will be played.
Who enters the UEFA Europa Conference League?
In all, 184 teams will be involved over the course of the season including at least one from each of the 55 associations and 46 clubs transferring from either the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League.
Before the group stage there will be three qualifying rounds and a play-off round (split into a main path, and a champions path for those transferring from the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League champions path). The access list explains which teams (including some national cup winners) enter from which associations and in which rounds, as well as how clubs transfer from the other competitions.
No teams qualify directly for the group stage, with the 32 teams consisting of:
• 17 teams from the UEFA Europa Conference League main path
• 5 teams from the UEFA Europa Conference League champions path
• 10 teams eliminated in the UEFA Europa League play-offs
How will it work?
There will be eight groups of four teams, followed by knockout round play-offs, the round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.
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 UEFA Europa League groups.
First final: Tirana
The 21,690-capacity National Arena (Arena Kombëtare) will stage the first final on 25 May 2022, as announced by the UEFA Executive Committee on 3 December 2020. The stadium opened in November 2019 with a European Qualifier between Albania and France. It was built, with the help of UEFA’s HatTrick assistance programme, on the site of the former Qemal Stafa Stadium in the centre of the Albanian capital.
When are the games?
The UEFA Europa Conference League fixtures will take place on Thursdays along with UEFA Europa League games (though the final in Tirana will be a week after the UEFA Europa League final in Sevilla on 18 May 2022). The matches of the two competitions will in principle be equally split between the two time slots: 18:45 CET (no longer 18:55) and 21:00 CET. Draw dates are to be confirmed.
First qualifying round: 8 & 15 July
Second qualifying round: 22 & 29 July
Third qualifying round: 5 & 12 August
Play-offs: 19 & 26 August
Group stage: 16 & 30 September, 21 October, 4 & 25 November, 9 December
Knockout round play-offs: 17 & 24 February
Round of 16: 10 & 17 March
Quarter-finals: 7 & 14 April
Semi-finals: 28 April & 5 May
Final: 25 May (National Arena, Tirana)
The competition will run throughout the 2021–2024 cycle at least.
What do the winners get?
The winner will gain a place in the following season’s UEFA Europa League group stage if they have not qualified for the UEFA Champions League via their domestic competition.
Why is it being introduced?
The new structure for UEFA club competitions will ensure that at least 34 UEFA national associations are represented in the group stage of one or more competitions.
There will be a minimum of 14 domestic champions in the UEFA Champions League group stage, between eight and 11 domestic champions in the UEFA Europa League group stage, and between nine and 12 domestic champions in the UEFA Europa Conference League group stage. All member associations will have access to all three club competitions, and all associations’ quotas will remain unchanged.
UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin said: “The new UEFA club competition makes UEFA’s club competitions more inclusive than ever before. There will be more matches for more clubs, with more associations represented in the group stages.”
Will it impact the other competitions?
The introduction of the UEFA Europa Conference League will have no impact on the UEFA Champions League. However, the UEFA Europa League group stage will be reduced from 48 to 32 teams – eight groups of four.
The eight UEFA Europa League group winners progress automatically to the round of 16. There will also be additional knockout round play-offs prior to the UEFA Europa League round of 16; these will be between the eight UEFA Europa League group runners-up and the eight third-ranked teams of the UEFA Champions League groups.
The UEFA Europa League access list will also change accordingly, with the previous season’s UEFA Europa Conference League winners joined in the group stage by 11 teams who qualify directly via their domestic associations. Additionally, ten teams will come through UEFA Europa League qualifying and a further ten from UEFA Champions League qualifying.
Following the announcement of the National Arena in Tirana, Albania, as the venue, which will have the honour of hosting the first ever UEFA Europa Conference League final, the competition’s logo has also been unveiled. It features the tournament’s new trophy, which is placed between two half circles, consistent with the logo of the UEFA Europa League.
The logo has been designed to be bold and iconic ensuring clear standout on all applications. The UEFA Europa Conference League trophy will be fully revealed next spring, along with the competition’s brand identity.