Wednesday’s soccer news starts with the Europa Conference League, UEFA’s return to three European competitions. The Europa Conference League slots in beneath the Europa League to give opportunities to clubs representing leagues not likely to advance to the group stage of the Champions League. If you though that’s what the Europa League was for, a merger of the old UEFA Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup, fair enough.
The Europa Conference League debuts on July 8 with the start of three qualifying rounds and the playoffs to finish out the group stage. If you’re hoping for a straightforward process, we’re talking about a way to turn 182 teams into 32 while insisting on adding more to the process than you’d think. That means starting with 68 teams in the first qualifying round and increasing that to a total of 108 in the second qualifying round. That reduces to 62 in the third qualifying round and 44 in the playoff round. 44 becomes 22, joining 10 teams that lost in the third round of the main path of Europa League qualifying in the Europa Conference League group stage.
After all of that summer excitement, it’s the group stage in the Fall leading into a preliminary knockout round in the new year. Why? Because finishing runners-up in the group stage isn’t good enough to simply advance to the round of 16. Instead, those teams have to beat 3rd-place teams that have dropped from the Europa League. If this was a boss battle in a video game, you’d likely throw the controller down in righteous anger at this point. Instead, it’s onto the actual round of 16, where the preliminary knockout round winners play the teams that won their groups.
Perhaps the best way to look at this is a tournament where only the first qualifying round involves teams that enter the Europa Conference League specifically. Did we forget to mention that the Champions League preliminary round and first qualifying round losers show up in the Champions Path of the second qualifying round? Well, they do.
Perhaps overstressing UEFA’s love of an open competition, the third rung of Europe’s cups also includes representatives from the elite domestic leagues. Should Villarreal lose later today in the Europa League final, they’ll enter the Europa Conference League in the playoff round. Joining them will be Spurs, Union Berlin, and Roma as 7th-place finishers in their respective leagues and Rennes who finished 6th in Ligue 1.
Why those teams wouldn’t end up in the Europa League with the Europa Conference reserved for teams lacking representation in the bigger tournaments is certainly a question. So is wondering why UEFA insists on dropping teams into other tournaments after they fail to advance in the Champions League. Maybe keep that in mind the next time there’s a reason to stress the open nature of Europe’s soccer competitions.
Moving to the soccer news, Football Italia’s Susy Campanale reports on the TV money in Serie A. Marca with UEFA considering what action to take against the three clubs that stuck with The Super League plan. The Ringer’s Ryan Hunn looks back at the 2020-21 Bundesliga season. DW on Hansi Flick officially getting the Germany job. CBS Sports explains its coverage model for Saturday’s Champions League final. The Athletic’s Pablo Maurer, Matt Pentz, and Chris Kamrani tell Zlatan Ibrahimovic stories from his time with the Galaxy.
All links are provided as a courtesy. US Soccer Players nor its authors are responsible for the content of third-party links or sites. For comments, questions, and concerns please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Logo courtesy of UEFA