The dates for the 2022-23 UEFA Europa Conference League, Europe's No. 3 club competition, have…
What is the UEFA Europa Conference League?
The European soccer powers have created yet another continental competition, the UEFA Europa Conference League. It is the third-tier offering underneath the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.
So let’s answer the questions, what is the UEFA Europa Conference League, and how will it work?
(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning Groundhopper Guides may receive some compensation if you make a purchase after clicking one of these links.)
But first, a little context.
The Structure of European Football
As described in our video above, each country has multiple leagues and cups, with cup winners, league champions and other high-table finishers advancing into regional competitions during the following season.
In Europe, which is governed by UEFA, these competitions are called the Champions League and Europa League. To use England as an example, the top four in the Premier League go to the Champions League, while the fifth-place finishers and the FA Cup winners go to the Europa League. Sometimes an additional team will get to the Europa League if, say, the FA Cup winner also qualified for the Champions League.
All of this is what commentators mean when they talk about English teams “getting into Europe.”
Meanwhile, each country’s top league is ranked by UEFA, a number called their coefficient. England is ranked second behind Spain, with Italy, Germany and France next. This ranking determines, in the case of the Europa League, whether your entrants go straight to the group stage or have to play through qualifying rounds. England’s clubs don’t have to play in qualifying rounds in either league.
The UEFA Conference League will work much the same as the Champions League and the Europa League, but it is mainly for countries with coefficients higher than 30. It will also serve as a landing spot for certain clubs who are eliminated from the Europa League — much as the Europa League receives some teams as they drop out of the Champions League.
So another way of looking at the UEFA Europa Conference League is that it’s turning the lower reaches of the Europa League into a separate tournament.
If you really want to get into the weeds on Conference League qualification — and they are deep — check out the Wikipedia page about qualification for the 2021-22 UEFA Europa Conference League.
Which English Premier League Clubs be in the UEFA Europa Conference League?
If your main interest is clubs from those high-coefficient leagues you’re familiar with — England, Spain and the rest — then the two ways that one of those clubs will wind up in the Conference League is if they finish sixth in their domestic league, win the EFL Cup in England, or come in third in their Europa League group stage.
Sixth-place finishers will also qualify from Spain, Germany, France and Italy.
Premier League Teams in the Conference League, 2023-24
In the 2022-23 season, Manchester United won the EFL (or Carabao) Cup, so they would qualify for Conference League. But since they also qualified for Champions League by finishing third in the league, their spot goes to the next-highest club in the table that didn’t qualify for Europe. In this case, that is Aston Villa.
Qualification for the UEFA Europa Conference League
So let’s take a quick stroll through the qualification process for the Conference League.
A total of 72 teams will start out in the First Qualifying Round; these will be cup winners along with first- and second-place league finishers from countries ranked below 29. For reference, here’s a look at those current UEFA coefficients:
The next two qualifying rounds are made up of the winners from the previous rounds plus a hodgepodge of clubs from slightly higher-ranked nations, as well as teams dropping out of the Champions League qualification process. This all leads to a playoff round of 44 teams, in which sixth-place clubs from the top European leagues (or England’s EFL Cup winner) will enter, along with some teams dropping out of the Europa League.
The group stage, then, consists of the qualifying winners plus teams falling out of the Europa League. Then there’s a knockout stage, in the usual two-game format, leading to a final on May 29, 2024 in a site to be determined.
Will the UEFA Europa Conference League be on Television?
In the United States, CBS has the rights to the Conference League, as they do the Champions League and Europa League. Whether they choose to actually show any of the Conference League games remains to be seen; if anything, later-round games might show up on their Paramount+ streaming service.
For a full list of broadcast rights-owners around the world, check Wikipedia.