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UEFA Europa Conference League: What is it? How does it work? Why was it introduced?

All you need to know about UEFA's newest club competition, which was launched in 2021/22.

The Europa Conference League logo
The Europa Conference League logo UEFA via Getty Images

What is the Europa Conference League?

A third season-long UEFA men's football club competition was introduced in 2021/22 in the form of the UEFA Europa Conference League. It runs on Thursday nights alongside the UEFA Europa League. In all, over 170 teams are involved over the course of the season, including at least one from each of UEFA's associations and clubs transferring from either the Champions League or Europa League.

How does the Europa Conference League work?

There are eight groups of four teams, followed by knockout round play-offs, the round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final. The eight group winners automatically go through to the last 16; additional knockout round play-offs are played before the round of 16 between the eight group runners-up and the third-ranked teams from the Europa League groups.

Before the group stage there are three qualifying rounds and a play-off round (split into a main path, and a champions path for those transferring from the Champions League and Europa League champions path). No teams qualify directly for the group stage.

Europa Conference League 2022/23 top ten goals

When are Europa Conference League games played?

Europa Conference League fixtures take place on Thursdays along with Europa League games, though the final takes place a week after the Europa League final. The matches of the two competitions are in principle equally split between the two time slots: 18:45 CET and 21:00 CET.

2023/24 match and draw dates

Why was the Europa Conference League introduced?

The new structure for UEFA club competitions introduced in 2021/22 ensures that at least 34 UEFA national associations are represented in the group stage of one or more competitions.

There are a minimum of 14 domestic champions in the Champions League group stage, between eight and 11 domestic champions in the Europa League group stage, and between nine and 12 domestic champions in the Europa Conference League group stage. All member associations have access to all three club competitions, and all associations' quotas have remained unchanged.

Speaking after the Europa Conference League was approved in 2018, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin said: "The new UEFA club competition makes UEFA's club competitions more inclusive than ever before. There will be more matches for more clubs, with more associations represented in the group stages."

What do the Europa Conference League winners get?

Aside from an eye-catching trophy, the winners gain a place in the following season's Europa League group stage if they have not qualified for the Champions League via their domestic competition.

Watch West Ham lift Conference League trophy

How has the Europa Conference League affected the Champions League and Europa League?

The introduction of the Europa Conference League has had no impact on the Champions League. However, the Europa League group stage was reduced from 48 to 32 teams – eight groups of four.

The eight Europa League group winners progress automatically to the round of 16. There are also additional knockout round play-offs prior to the Europa League round of 16; these are between the eight Europa League group runners-up and the eight third-ranked teams of the Champions League groups.

What is the UEFA Europa Conference League anthem?

The Europa Conference League and the Europa League use the same anthem, composed by Michael Kadelbach and recorded in Berlin.

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