The UEFA Executive Board officially published the launch of the new, third European competition that will take place during the season 2021/22. Regardless of the fact that the negotiations for such a project began back in 2018, the announcement from Ljubljana came this September. The new league is named the UEFA Conference League, and the working title is “Europa League 2”.
Scheduled for the Season 2021/22
The new competition will be held alongside the Europa League, which happens every Thursday. The novelty won’t have such an impact on the Champions League but will undoubtedly change the climate in the Euro League, starting with qualifications.
League 2 will serve as the lower level of the European League, with a goal to reduce the number of teams in the group stage of the competition from 64 to 32.
Involving Smaller Nations
With the initiation of the new competition, UEFA aims to introduce more nations to the most prestigious championships of the Old Continent. For example, last year, only 29% of the UEFA members were competing in the Champions League group stage, and more than half of the teams were coming from the same five countries. League 2 should favor smaller clubs and countries that have not had the opportunity to fight for the European title so far.
The idea behind Europa League 2 is to introduce lower-ranked UEFA countries to the top competitions. Furthermore, the play-off system will prevent big teams from simply blowing away smaller players after the group stage.
Qualifications and Phases of the Competiton
Clubs qualify according to their performance in national leagues or Cup competitions. According to a familiar pattern, qualifications divide into two “paths” — the Champions Path and the League Path.
The difference with the Champions League is that Champions Path will be hiring only those teams that have lost in the Champions League qualifications, ending in the UECL.
The League Path will be based on the usual coefficient model, the same as with all UEFA competitions so far.
The group phase involves eight groups of four teams. The competition follows the format of the last 16, quarter-final, semi-final, and final.
At this stage of the competition, it is possible to notice a significant difference in the Conference, or League 2 — preliminary knockout round will be before entering the last 16. In this round, the second-placed team from the new league’s group goes into the play-off with the third-ranked team from the UEFA Europa League group stage.
The winner has direct participation in the next year’s UEFA Europa League.
Can the UEFA Conference League Be Successful?
While the new competition is in the preparation phase, the public is already counting the pros and cons. Sure, we all have some doubts about it, but we are also eager to find out what it can bring.
Every sport carries excitement because of even the smallest chance that the weaker opponent can defeat the stronger one. Everyone expects a fight between David and Goliath, but it is uncertain whether EL2 will be able to strike a balance between first-class soccer elitism and small but ambitious teams. One thing is sure — more soccer means more excitement for fans.