UEFA have announced the creation of the “UEFA Europa Conference” a third tier European competition from the 2021/22 season.
A total of 184 teams will be involved over the course of the season including at least one from each of the 55 associations and 46 clubs transferring from either the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League. The maiden final of this competition will be hosted in Tirana the capital city of Albania as announced by the UEFA Executive Committee on 3 December 2020.
There will be three qualifying rounds and a play-off round before the group stage. 32 teams will fight for qualification into the group stage of with which no teams qualify directly for the group stage.
These 32 teams consist of:
• 17 teams from the UEFA Europa Conference League main path
• 5 teams from the UEFA Europa Conference League champions path
• 10 teams eliminated in the UEFA Europa League play-offs
Format of the competition
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.
When are the games?
The UEFA Europa Conference League fixtures will take place on Thursdays along with UEFA Europa League games (though the final in Tirana will be a week after the UEFA Europa League final in Sevilla on 18 May 2020).
First qualifying round: 8 & 15 July
Second qualifying round: 22 & 29 July
Third qualifying round: 5 & 12 August
Play-offs: 19 & 26 August
Group stage: 16 & 30 September, 21 October, 4 & 25 November, 9 December
Knockout round play-offs: 17 & 24 February
Round of 16: 10 & 17 March
Quarter-finals: 7 & 14 April
Semi-finals: 28 April & 5 May
Final: 25 May (National Arena, Tirana)
What do the winners get?
The winner will gain a place in the following season’s UEFA Europa League group stage if they have not qualified for the UEFA Champions League via their domestic competition.
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.
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
How is it going to affect 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.