UEFA Europa Conference League
|Founded||24 May 2021|
|Number of teams||32 (group stage)[a]|
|Qualifier for||UEFA Europa League|
|Related competitions||UEFA Champions League (1st tier)|
UEFA Europa League (2nd tier)
|Television broadcasters||List of broadcasters|
|2021–22 UEFA Europa Conference League|
The UEFA Europa Conference League (abbreviated as UECL), colloquially referred to as the UEFA Conference League, is an annual football club competition organised by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) for eligible European football clubs. Clubs qualify for the competition based on their performance in their national leagues and cup competitions. It is the third tier of European club football, after the Champions League and the Europa League.
Introduced for the 2021–22 season, the league will serve as the bottom level of the existing UEFA Europa League competition, which was reduced from 48 to 32 teams in the group stage. The competition will primarily be contested by teams from lower-ranked UEFA member associations. No teams qualify directly to the group stage, with 10 teams eliminated in the Europa League play-offs and the rest coming from the Europa Conference League qualifiers. The winners of the competition are awarded a position in the Europa League the following season, unless they qualify for the Champions League.
UEFA had reportedly considered adding a third-tier competition since at least 2015, believing that a bottom-level tournament could act as a means of giving clubs from lower-ranked UEFA member countries a chance of progressing beyond their customary elimination from the Champions League and Europa League. In mid-2018, talk of an announcement intensified, with news sources claiming an agreement had already been reached for the competition to be launched and that the 48-team Europa League group stage would be split in two, with the lower half forming the nucleus of what would be the new event.
On 2 December 2018, UEFA announced that the competition – provisionally known as "Europa League 2" or just "UEL2" – was to be launched as part of the 2021–24 three-year competition cycle, with UEFA adding that the new tournament would bring "more matches for more clubs and more associations".
The official name of the competition, "UEFA Europa Conference League", was announced on 24 September 2019.
On 24 May 2021, UEFA revealed the competition's trophy and brand identity. The first ever goal in the Europa Conference League qualifiers was scored on 6 July 2021 by Mosta player Evo Ememe Christ in a qualifying round match vs. Spartak Trnava. The first ever goal in the Europa Conference League group stage was scored on 14 September 2021 by Maccabi Tel Aviv player Stipe Perica in a 2021–22 UEFA Europa Conference League group stage match against Alashkert.
Similar to the UEFA Champions League, qualification to the Europa Conference League will be split into two Paths – the Champions Path and the League Path. Unlike the Champions League, however, the Champions Path will only be contested by teams which lost the qualification for the Champions League group stage and consequently have been relegated directly into the UEFA Europa Conference League.
- Nations ranked 1 to 5 will have one team;
- Nations ranked 6 to 15 will have two teams;
- Nations ranked 16 to 50 will have three teams;
- Nations ranked 51 to 55 will have two teams;
- Liechtenstein does not have a domestic league and will provide the winner of the Liechtenstein Football Cup irrespective of their coefficient ranking.
Based on this reorganisation, no association will benefit from more berths to continental football than they had before the 2021–24 competition cycle, with the tournament essentially being the lower orders of the existing Europa League tournament but split off into a secondary tournament.
Group stage and knockout phase
The format will see eight groups of four teams, followed by the round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final. An additional preliminary knockout round will be played before the round of 16 between teams ranked second in their groups and the third-ranked teams of the UEFA Europa League groups. The new competition will feature 141 matches over 15 match weeks. 56 teams will take part.
The winner of the new competition will be entitled to participate in the UEFA Europa League in the following season. The new competition matches will be played on Thursdays.
Distribution (from 2021–22 to 2023–24)
All qualification berths are based on UEFA's default assumption that each association will submit one domestic cup winner as its highest-ranked qualifier after those eligible to enter the Champions League, and will define its remaining entrants by their league position in the previous year. England allocates its lowest-ranked qualification place to the winners of the EFL Cup or, if it already qualified to Champions League or Europa League, to the sixth or seventh placed in Premier League.
|Teams entering in this round||Teams advancing from previous round||Teams transferred from Champions League||Teams transferred from Europa League|
|First qualifying round
|Second qualifying round||Champions
|Third qualifying round||Champions
|Preliminary knockout round
A number of multinational companies sponsor this competition, which share the same partners with the UEFA Europa League.
The tournament's main sponsors for the 2021–24 cycle are:
- Heineken N.V.
- Just Eat Takeaway
- 10bis (Israel only)
- Bistro (Slovakia only)
- Just Eat (Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom only)
- Lieferando (Germany and Austria only)
- Pyszne (Poland only)
- Takeaway (Belgium, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Portugal and Romania only)
- Thuisbezorgd (Netherlands only)
- Hankook Tire
- Engelbert Strauss
- Enterprise Rent-A-Car
- Entain Foundation
Individual clubs may wear jerseys with advertising, even if such sponsors conflict with those of the Europa Conference League. However, only two sponsorships are permitted per jersey (plus that of the manufacturer), at the chest and the left sleeve. Exceptions are made for non-profit organisations, which can feature on the front of the shirt, incorporated with the main sponsor, or on the back, either below the squad number or between the player name and the collar.
Similar to the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League, the prize money received by the clubs is divided into fixed payments based on participation and results, and variable amounts that depend on the value of their TV market.
For the 2021–22 season, group stage participation in the Europa Conference League is awarded a base fee of €2,940,000. A victory in the group pays €500,000 and a draw €166,000. Also, each group winner earns €650,000 and each runner-up €325,000. Reaching the knock-out stage triggers additional bonuses: €300,000 for the round of 32, €600,000 for the round of 16, €1,000,000 for the quarter-finals and €2,000,000 for the semi-finals. The losing finalists receive €3,000,000 and the champions receive €5,000,000.
- First qualifying round elimination: €150,000
- Second qualifying round elimination: €350,000
- Third qualifying round elimination: €550,000
- Play-off round elimination: €750,000
- Qualified to Group Stage: €2,940,000
- Match won in Group Stage: €500,000
- Match drawn in Group Stage: €166,000
- 1st in Group Stage: €650,000
- 2nd in Group Stage: €325,000
- Knockout round play-offs: €300,000
- Round of 16: €600,000
- Quarter-final: €1,000,000
- Semi-final: €2,000,000
- Runner-up: €3,000,000
- Champion: €5,000,000
Also, each domestic champion not qualifying for the Group Stages of any final tournament will receive an additional €260,000.
- The second-placed teams in each group advance to the preliminary knockout round, where they are joined by the eight third-placed teams in the Europa League group stage.
- UEFA Intertoto Cup – a pan-European competition with similar format, held from 1995 to 2008.
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- "UEFA Executive Committee approves new club competition". UEFA.com (Press release). Union of European Football Associations. 2 December 2018. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
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- "Uefa set to introduce third European club competition from 2021–22". The Guardian. PA Media. 11 September 2018. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
- "Format change for 2020/21 UEFA Nations League". UEFA.com (Press release). Union of European Football Associations. 24 September 2019.
- "Mosta vs Spartak Trnava - stats, H2H, lineups". FotMob. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
- "UEL2 Access List 2021–24" (PDF). UEFA.com. Union of European Football Associations. 2 December 2018. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
- "HEINEKEN extends UEFA club competition sponsorship". UEFA.com (Press release). Union of European Football Associations. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
- Carp, Sam. "Uefa's Just Eat sponsorship covers Champions League and Women's Euro". SportsPro. SportsPro Media Limited. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
- UEFA.com (27 August 2021). "Hankook Tire renews longstanding UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League partnership | Inside UEFA". UEFA.com. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
- UEFA.com (27 July 2021). "Engelbert Strauss signs three-year UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League partnership | Inside UEFA". UEFA.com. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
- UEFA.com (1 September 2021). "Swissquote signs three-year UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League partnership | Inside UEFA". UEFA.com. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
- UEFA.com (7 September 2021). "bwin becomes Official Partner of the UEFA Europa League and new UEFA Europa Conference League | Inside UEFA". UEFA.com. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
- "Molten becomes UEFA Europa League match ball supplier". UEFA.com. Union of European Football Associations. 23 October 2017. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
- "UEFA Documents". documents.uefa.com. Retrieved 31 July 2021.
- uefadirect 7/09 p.7
- "Distribution to clubs from the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League and the 2021 UEFA Super Cup Payments for the qualifying phases Solidarity payments for non-participating clubs" (PDF). UEFA.com (Press release). Union of European Football Associations. 20 May 2021. Retrieved 20 June 2021.