UEFA Europa Conference League: what is it? When does it start? Who's involved?

The UEFA Europa Conference League will kick off for the 2021/22 campaign.

Ten teams eliminated from the UEFA Europa League play-offs will qualify for the new UEFA Europa Conference League group stage from 2021/22
Ten teams eliminated from the UEFA Europa League play-offs will qualify for the new UEFA Europa Conference League group stage from 2021/22 ©Getty Images

What is the UEFA Europa Conference League?

The UEFA Europa Conference League will be the third UEFA club competition and run alongside both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. It was first approved by the UEFA Executive Committee in December 2018.

When does it start?

The competition is set to get under way in 2021/22 and run throughout the 2021–2024 cycle at least. The full competition calendar will be communicated in due course.

Who will be involved?

No teams qualify directly. The 32 group stage entrants will be decided as follows:

• Seventeen teams from the UEFA Europa Conference League main path.

• Five teams from the UEFA Europa Conference League champions path.

• Ten teams eliminated in the UEFA Europa League play-offs.

The full access list will be communicated in due course.

How will it work?

There will be 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 will then be played before the round of 16 between the eight group runners-up and the third-ranked teams of the UEFA Europa League groups.

The new competition will feature 141 matches over 15 match weeks, exactly like the new-look UEFA Europa League.

What do the winners get?

The winner of the new competition will be entitled to enter the following season's UEFA Europa League group stage.

Why is it being introduced?

The new structure for UEFA club competitions will ensure that at least 34 UEFA national associations are represented in the group stage of one or more competitions.

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

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."

Will it impact the other competitions?

The introduction of the UEFA Europa Conference League will have no impact on the UEFA Champions League. However, the UEFA Europa League group stage will be reduced from 48 to 32 teams – eight groups of four.

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

The UEFA Europa League access list will also change accordingly, with the previous season's UEFA Europa Conference League winners joined in the group stage by 11 teams who qualify directly via their domestic associations. Additionally, ten teams will come through UEFA Europa League qualifying and a further ten from UEFA Champions League qualifying.

What else do we know?

The UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League fixtures will both take place on Thursdays. The matches of the two competitions will in principle be equally split between the two time slots: 18:45CET (no longer 18:55) and 21:00CET. These two time slots will also apply to the UEFA Champions League fixtures on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

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