Europa League Qualification
The Europa League has a long qualification process, this is to allow teams from even the lowest ranking leagues in Europe a chance to play in the competition.
UEFA is the organising body of the Champions League and the Europa League, and they rank all of the 54 European leagues with a UEFA coefficient.
The leagues are ranked by their performance in European competitions, with points given for reaching the group stage, win the group stage, finish second in the group stage, advance to the playoffs round of 32, advance to the last 16, advance to the quarter finals, advance to the semi-finals, play in the finals and win the finals. These points are awarded to all of the domestic leagues of the clubs who win the points. This means that clubs that belong to one league would do the other clubs a favour if they win, as they increase the league rankings.
The structure of the qualification process has changed since the tournament began, with the most recent change announced in 2021. The formation of the UEFA Europa Conference League, a third European league that ranks below the Europa League has split some of the lower ranking teams from the Europa League to give them a chance to win some silverware. This move was made to accommodate the expansion of European football and support the leagues on the lower end of the rankings, so that they may still compete in international competitions.
The Europa League also has berths for winners of domestic cups in the higher ranking leagues, offering mid table clubs who may win the domestic cups the chance to play in the competition.
The 2021 Europa League qualification has been greatly reduced, there is only a qualifying round and a playoff round for teams trying to enter the competition proper.
The qualifying round is split into the champion’s path and the non-champions path.
In the champion’s path, the 10 losing teams from the Champions League second qualifying round are seeded and play each other over two legs, the winners proceeding to the playoff rounds. The non-champions path includes the three domestic winners from the leagues ranked 15th to 13th, along with the three losing teams from the Champions League non-champions path. These teams are seeded and play in a two legged round, with the three winners advancing to the playoffs.
The playoffs combine the champion’s and non-champions paths, and they are joined by the six domestic winners from the leagues ranked 12th to 7th and the six losers of the third qualifying round for the Champions League champion’s path. The 20 teams play each other over two legs, and the winners advance to the Europa League group stage.
Europa League Group Stage
In the group stage, the 10 winners of the playoff rounds are joined by the teams that have automatic berths to the Europa League. These include the 6 domestic cup winners from the leagues ranked 6th to 1st, the fourth placed team in the domestic league ranked 5th, the 4 fifth placed teams in the leagues ranked 4th to 1st and the UEFA Europa Conference League winners. The 22 teams are joined by the 4 losers of the Champions League playoff round for the champions and the 6 losers from the third qualification round and playoff round for the non-champions, or league path.
The 32 teams that will play in the group stage are placed into pots that are drawn into groups and then the teams are seeded in a ceremony that precedes the upcoming season. In the ceremony, there is also an award given out for the Player of the Season in the previous UEFA Europa League.
For the draw, the teams are divided into four pots, based on their UEFA club coefficients. These rankings are an independent ranking from the league rankings, and rank each club based on which domestic league they perform in, how they fare in the league and their performance in European tournaments over the past five years. The conditions of the draw are that no team may be drawn to play in the same group as another team from their domestic football association.
One team from each of the four seeding pots will be drawn into the eight groups A-H, and then the following pots are drawn and assigned. There are also certain club pairings, these are made for the benefit of TV audiences. Certain teams from the same association are paired together to make sure that they play their matches at different times, meaning fans will not have to choose which game they want to watch, but can watch both.
The schedules can then be made and the teams can play in their assigned groups.
In the group stage, each team plays a double robin-round against the other teams in the group, once home and once away. This means each team will play 6 games. At the end of the group stage, the 8 group winners proceed to the last 16 round, whilst the runners up will play in the playoffs round. In the playoffs round, the 8 runners up will face the 8 teams that placed third in the Champions League group stage, and the winners can advance to the last 16.
The teams that finished third place in the Europa League group stage advance to the Europa Conference League playoff round.
Europa League Knockout Stages
The last 16 is the first round of the knockout stages. Here, the teams will be seeded together and play in a two legged round which results in the winner by aggregate going through to the quarter finals. If the teams are tied at the end of the second match, then the teams play extra time and then have to conclude the match with a penalty shootout.
The quarter finals and the semi-finals follow the same format as the round of the last 16. The fixtures for the teams that progress to the following rounds are drawn at random at this point, there is no rule against teams from the same association playing each other.
Which team plays at home first is also selected at random, with the fixtures being played on Wednesday and Thursday nights for the first leg, and then the second leg fixtures are all played on the same Thursday.
Europa League Finals
The two winners of the semi-finals will advance to the Europa League finals. The venue for the final is predetermined by the UEFA committee, in a process where the finals are rotated to take place in different countries each year. The stadiums chosen for the final to be played in are usually national stadiums, or the largest football stadium in a country’s capital city. This is done so it can be accessed by fans of both finalists and also by neutrals who may want to buy tickets to see the game.
The Europa League finals are one of the most important European football matches in the season, and many fans watch the game at home or in their local pub or bar. As with other football matches, a lot of punters like to put some side bets on the match, on which team will win the finals, on game props or on players props that may be available
While it can be a thrilling experience, sports betting is a form of gambling, and if you feel that you are spending more money than you should, you can turn to organisations such as gambleaware.co.uk for help.