Rayo Vallecano de Madrid will travel to Slovenia for the UEFA Women's Champions League qualifying round from 11 to 16 August after the draw was made in Nyon.
The Spanish champions came within a minute of beating Arsenal LFC to last season's quarter-finals. If they are to join the Gunners and the other 22 top seeds in the round of 32 this time, they must get through a group containing hosts ŽNK Krka, Peamount United and Pärnu FC, in one of eight mini-tournaments that will be played.
Apollon Limassol LFC, who caused the upset of last year's qualifying round by eliminating two-time champions Umeå IK, welcome to Cyprus Ukrainian top seeds Legenda Chernigiv, Swansea City Ladies AFC and FC Progrès Niedercon.
All eight group winners plus the two best runners-up will proceed to the draw for the rounds of 32 and 16 on 23 August, with the two-legged knockout phase beginning the following month. Holders Olympique Lyonnais are among those entering in the last 32 from the record entry of 54 teams.
Qualifying round draw
Group 1: FC PAOK (GRE), BSC Young Boys (SUI), CS Galiador-SS 11 Chisinau (MDA), ZFK Nase Taksi-SNT 2010 (MKD)*
Group 2: SU 1 ° Dezembro (POR)*, MTK Hungária FC (HUN), ASA Tel-Aviv FC (ISR), SK Liepājas Metalurgs (LVA)
Group 3: Rayo Vallecano de Madrid (ESP), ŽNK Krka (SVN)*, Peamount United (IRL), Pärnu FC (EST)
Group 4: WFC SFK 2000 Sarajevo (BIH)*, Gintra Universitetas (LTU), Olimpia Cluj-Napoca (ROU), Ataşehir Belediyespor (TUR)
Group 5: Glasgow City LFC (SCO), KÍ Klaksvík (FRO), ŽFK Spartak Jaffa (SRB)*, Mosta FC (MLT)
Group 6: RTP Unia Racibórz (POL), PK-35 Vantaa (FIN)*, ŠK Slovan Bratislava (SVK), KS Ada (ALB)
Group 7: Legenda Chernigiv (UKR), Apollon Limassol LFC (CYP)*, Swansea City Ladies AFC (WAL), FC Progrès Niedercorn (LUX)
Group 8: FC NSA Sofia (BUL), FC Bobruchanka (BLR), WFC Osijek (CRO)*, Crusaders FC (NIR)
The UEFA Women's Champions League is establishing itself on the European football scene at a time when UEFA is stepping up its activities on behalf of the women's game. At its meeting in Prague in December, the UEFA Executive Committee noted the huge growth in European women's football, in terms of both registered players and participation, and agreed to support the UEFA Women's Football Development Programme (WFDP) via a yearly payment of €100,000 between 2012 and 2016. These payments will come via the HatTrick III scheme.
"We are hoping to increase women's participation at all levels of our game," UEFA competitions director Giorgio Marchetti told club officials before making the draw, reminding them that Karen Espelund, the chair of the UEFA Women's Football Committee, was last week made a member by invitation to the UEFA Executive Committee. "This is a sign of how much UEFA rates the women's game, and how much we would like it to be promoted and to expand," Marchetti added.
"Last season's final was of a very high quality, and testifies to the progress that women's football is making," Marchetti said of the encounter between Olympique Lyonnais and 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam in London last month. The UEFA competitions director also revealed that an estimated five million TV viewers watched the final. "Excellent figures for this match," said Marchetti. "It shows a lot of interest within the general public, which encourages us in taking further steps to promote the competition and the women's game."
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