Leicester City kickoff Kickoff at Leicester City

As each English Premier League season winds down, there is a phrase that will be tossed around quite a bit: “Get into Europe.” What does this mean?

(Updated December 15, 2020 with English club results in Europe)

The short answer here is that it means “Qualify for European club competition next season.” But let’s go just a little deeper into it.

Ultimately, this is what the top four teams in England are shooting for: The Champions League Trophy.

How is Soccer Organized Worldwide?

Without getting lost in the details, world soccer is divided into regions; there are seven of them, and Europe is one. Within each region there are three types of competitions: nation vs nation to qualify for the World Cup every four years, nation vs nation for the regional championship every (some other) four years, and club vs club for the regional championship. World Cup Qualifying is called just that. The others, in Europe’s case, are the European Championships and the Champions League.

The way teams qualify for the Champions League is also pretty complicated, but let’s keep it simple here. In England’s Premier League, the top four teams go. This is basically what people mean when they say “Get into Europe.” The top three go straight in, and #4 has to play an extra qualifying round. The Champions League starts in September and ends in May.

(Here is the schedule for the 2020-21 Champions League.)

Two Tournaments: Champions League and Europa League

It’s called the Champions League, by the way, because it used to be you had to win your home country to get in. But obviously that limits the number of teams, therefore the number of games, and therefore — and most importantly — the amount of money to be made by the clubs, the TV networks, and the criminal syndicate known as FIFA that runs this whole operation.

There is another European championship; it’s called the Europa League. In England, teams 5 and 6 get into that one. Sometimes #7 gets in, as well, but honestly, that process is so damn confusing that I don’t feel like discussing it. (Read all about the Europa League here.)

English Teams in the Champions League This Year

For the 2020-21 competition, England were represented in the Champions League by Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea. But Man U were eliminated at the group stage.

Here is how English teams fared in the Round of 16 UEFA Champions League draw.

English Teams in the Europa League This Year

Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal are in the Europa League, which means Leicester’s fans will be singing this classic soccer song again.

Man U joined them after being bounced out of the Champions League.

Here is how English teams fared in the Round of 16 UEFA Europa League draw.

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