UEFA Europa Conference League
Organising bodyUEFA
Founded2021; 3 years ago (2021)
RegionEurope
Number of teams40 (main phase total)[a]
32 (group stage)
184 (total)
Qualifier forUEFA Europa League
Related competitionsUEFA Champions League (1st tier)
UEFA Europa League (2nd tier)
Current championsEngland West Ham United (1st title)
Most successful club(s)Italy Roma
England West Ham United
(1 title each)
Television broadcastersList of broadcasters
Websiteuefa.com/uefaeuropaconferenceleague
2023–24 UEFA Europa Conference League

The UEFA Europa Conference League (abbreviated as UECL or sometimes, UEFA ECL), which will be renamed the UEFA Conference League (sometimes referred to as simply the Conference League[1]) prior to the 2024–25 season, is an annual football competition organised by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) for eligible European football clubs. It is the third tier of continental club football in Europe, behind the second-tier Europa League, and the first-tier Champions League.

First contested in the 2021–22 season, the competition serves as the bottom level of the Europa League, which was reduced from 48 to 32 teams in the group stage. The competition is primarily contested by teams from lower-ranked UEFA member associations.[2] No teams qualify directly to the group stage, with 10 teams eliminated in the Europa League play-offs and the rest coming from the Europa Conference League qualifiers. The winners of the competition are awarded a position in the Europa League the following season, unless they qualify for the Champions League.[3] Roma were the inaugural winners of the competition, having beaten Feyenoord 1–0 in the 2022 final. West Ham United are the current champions, having beaten Fiorentina 2–1 in the 2023 final.

History

UEFA Europa Conference League Winners
Season Winner
2021–22 Italy Roma
2022–23 England West Ham United
2023–24 To be determined (TBD)
The UEFA Europa Conference League trophy on display in Rome

UEFA had reportedly considered adding a third-tier competition since at least 2015, believing that a bottom-level tournament could act as a means of giving clubs from lower-ranked UEFA member countries a chance of progressing beyond their customary elimination from the Champions League and Europa League.[4] In mid-2018, talk of an announcement intensified, with news sources claiming an agreement had already been reached for the competition to be launched and that the 48-team Europa League group stage would be split in two, with the lower half forming the nucleus of what would be the new event.[5]

On 2 December 2018, UEFA announced that the competition – provisionally known as "Europa League 2" or just "UEL2" – was to be launched as part of the 2021–24 three-year competition cycle, with UEFA adding that the new tournament would bring "more matches for more clubs and more associations".[3]

The official name of the competition, "UEFA Europa Conference League", was announced on 24 September 2019.[6]

On 24 May 2021, UEFA revealed the competition's trophy and brand identity. The Europa Conference League Trophy stands 57.5 cm (22.6 in) tall and weighs 11 kg (24 lb).[7]

The first goal in the Europa Conference League qualifiers was scored on 6 July 2021 by Mosta player Evo Chris in a 2021–22 qualifying round match against Spartak Trnava.[8] The first goal in the Europa Conference League group stage was scored on 14 September 2021 by Maccabi Tel Aviv player Stipe Perica in a 2021–22 group stage match against Alashkert.[9] On 30 September 2021, the competition's first hat-trick was scored by Harry Kane for Tottenham Hotspur in a group stage match against NS Mura. Kane came on as a 59th minute substitute at 2–1 before scoring three goals within 20 minutes of each other to finish off the game (5–1).[10]

On 24 February 2022, PAOK became the first team to win a Conference League tie on penalties, after beating Danish side Midtjylland 5–3 in a knockout round play-off match.[11] On 5 May 2022, Feyenoord and Roma became the first teams ever to reach the final of UECL, ending with Roma being crowned the inaugural champions.[12]

On 3 November 2022, West Ham United became the first side to win all six of their Conference League group stage matches, picking up wins against FCSB, Silkeborg and Anderlecht.[13] They went on to win the competition by defeating Fiorentina 2–1 in the 2023 final, in the process becoming the first side to finish the competition undefeated, with 12 wins and one draw.

On 28 June 2023, UEFA announced that the competition will be renamed as the UEFA Conference League from the 2024–25 season onwards. According to UEFA, removing 'Europa' from the name of the competition will enable further development as a stand-alone competition in their research amongst fans and commercial partners.[14][15]

A match between CSKA Sofia and Roma in the inaugural 2021–22 season

Trophy

UEFA Europa Conference League Trophy

Format

Qualification

See also: UEFA coefficient

See caption
A map of UEFA associations whose teams reached the group stage of the UEFA Europa Conference League
  UEFA member association that has been represented in the group stage
  UEFA member association that has not been represented in the group stage

Similar to the UEFA Champions League, qualification to the Europa Conference League is split into two paths – separating champions and non-champions – and contains three rounds plus a play-off.[16] Unlike the Champions League, however, the Champions Path will only be contested by teams which lost the qualification for the Champions League group stage and consequently have been relegated either directly into the UEFA Europa Conference League (from UCL Q1&PR to UECL Q2) or via a second relegation from the UEFA Europa League as a result of two straight eliminations (from UCL Q2 to UEL Q3 then to UECL PO).[16]

The association ranking based on the UEFA country coefficients is used to determine the number of participating teams in main path qualification for each association (excluding 3 relegations from UEL Q3 out of five N2s in associations 10–15 and three CWs in associations 13–15):[16]

Based on this reorganisation, no association will benefit from more berths to continental football than they had before the 2021–24 competition cycle, with the tournament essentially being the lower orders of the existing Europa League tournament but split off into a secondary tournament.

Group stage and knockout phase

The format sees eight groups of four teams, followed by the round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final (all but the final are played over two legs). An additional preliminary knockout round is played before the round of 16 between teams ranked second in their groups and the third-ranked teams of the UEFA Europa League groups. The new competition features 141 matches over 15 match weeks.[3] 56 teams take part.

The final is played at a neutral venue. The winner of the competition is entitled to participate in the UEFA Europa League the following season. The competition's matches are played on Thursdays.[3]

Distribution (from 2021–22 to 2023–24)

All qualification berths are based on UEFA's default assumption that each association will submit one domestic cup winner as its highest-ranked qualifier after those eligible to enter the Champions League, and will define its remaining entrants by their league position in the previous year. England allocates its lowest-ranked qualification place to the winners of the EFL Cup or, if it already qualified to Champions League or Europa League, to the sixth or seventh placed in the Premier League.

Teams entering this round Teams advancing from the previous round Teams transferred from the Champions League Teams transferred from the Europa League
First qualifying round
(72 teams)
  • 26 domestic cup winners from associations 30–55
  • 25 domestic league runners-up from associations 30–55 (except Liechtenstein)
  • 21 domestic league third-placed teams from associations 29–50 (except Liechtenstein)
Second qualifying round Champions
(20 teams)
  • 17 teams eliminated from Champions League first qualifying round
  • 3 teams eliminated from Champions League preliminary round
Non-champions
(90 teams)
  • 14 domestic cup winners from associations 16–29
  • 14 domestic league runners-up from associations 16–29
  • 16 domestic league third-placed teams from associations 13–28
  • 9 domestic league fourth-placed teams from associations 7–15
  • 1 domestic league fifth-placed team from association 6
  • 36 winners from the first qualifying round
Third qualifying round Champions
(10 teams)
  • 10 winners from the second qualifying round for champions
Non-champions
(52 teams)
  • 6 domestic league third-placed teams from associations 7–12
  • 1 domestic league fourth-placed team from association 6
  • 45 winners from the second qualifying round for non-champions
Play-off round Champions
(10 teams)
  • 5 winners from the third qualifying round for champions
  • 5 teams eliminated from Europa League third qualifying round for champions
Non-champions
(34 teams)
  • 1 domestic league fifth-placed team from association 5
  • 4 domestic league sixth-placed teams from associations 1–4 (EFL Cup winners for England, or 7th placed team in domestic league if EFL Cup winners have qualified for Champions League or Europa League)
  • 26 winners from the third qualifying round for non-champions
  • 3 teams eliminated from Europa League third qualifying round for non-champions
Group stage
(32 teams)
  • 5 winners from the play-off round for champions
  • 17 winners from the play-off round for non-champions
  • 10 teams eliminated from Europa League play-off round
Preliminary knockout round
(16 teams)
  • 8 group runners-up from the group stage
  • 8 group third-placed teams from Europa League group stage
Knockout phase
(16 teams)
  • 8 group winners from the group stage
  • 8 winners from the preliminary knockout round

Distribution (from 2024–25)

[17]

Teams entering in this round Teams advancing from previous round Teams transferred from Champions League Teams transferred from Europa League
First qualifying round
(58 teams)
  • 17 domestic cup winners from associations 39–55
  • 21 domestic league runners-up from associations 34–55 (except Liechtenstein)
  • 20 domestic league third-placed teams from associations 30–50 (except Liechtenstein)
Second qualifying round
Champions
(16 teams)
  • 16 teams eliminated from Champions League first qualifying round
Non-champions
(88 teams)
  • 5 domestic cup winners from associations 34–38
  • 18 domestic league runners-up from associations 16–33
  • 17 domestic league third-placed teams from associations 13–29
  • 9 domestic league fourth-placed teams from associations 7–15
  • 1 domestic league fifth-placed team from association 6
  • 29 winners from the first qualifying round
  • 9 teams eliminated from Europa League first qualifying round
Third qualifying round
Champions
(8 teams)
  • 8 winners from the second qualifying round for champions
Non-champions
(52 teams)
  • 44 winners from the second qualifying round for non-champions
  • 8 teams eliminated from Europa League second qualifying round
Play-off round
Champions
(10 teams)
  • 4 winners from the third qualifying round for champions
  • 6 teams eliminated from Europa League third qualifying round for champions
Non-champions
(38 teams)
  • 5 domestic league sixth-placed teams from associations 1–5 (EFL Cup winners for England)
  • 26 winners from the third qualifying round for non-champions
  • 7 teams eliminated from Europa League third qualifying round for non-champions
League stage
(36 teams)
  • 5 winners from the play-off round for champions
  • 19 winners from the play-off round for non-champions
  • 12 teams eliminated from Europa League play-off round

Prize money

Similar to the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League, the prize money received by the clubs is divided into fixed payments based on participation and results, and variable amounts that depend on the value of their TV market.[18]

For the 2022–23 season, group stage participation in the Europa Conference League is awarded a base fee of €2,940,000. A victory in the group pays €500,000 and a draw €166,000. Also, each group winner earns €650,000 and each runner-up €325,000. Reaching the knock-out stage triggers additional bonuses: €300,000 for the round of 32, €600,000 for the round of 16, €1,000,000 for the quarter-finals and €2,000,000 for the semi-finals. The losing finalists receive €3,000,000 and the champions receive €5,000,000.[19]

Also, each domestic champion not qualifying for the Group Stages of any tournament receives an additional €260,000.

Records and statistics

Performances by club

Main article: List of UEFA Europa Conference League finals

Performance in the UEFA Europa Conference League by club
Club Winners Runners-up Years won Years runner-up
Italy Roma 1 0 2022
England West Ham United 1 0 2023
Italy Fiorentina 0 2 2023

2024

Netherlands Feyenoord 0 1 2022
Greece Olympiacos 0 1 2024

Performances by nation

Performance in finals by nation
Nation Winners Runners-up Total
 Italy 1 2 3
 England 1 0 1
 Netherlands 0 1 1
 Greece 0 1 1

Number of participating clubs of the Europa Conference League

The following is a list of clubs that have played or will be playing in the Conference League group stage.

Nation No. Clubs Seasons
Belgium Belgium (4) 3 Gent 2021–22, 2022–23, 2023–24
1 Anderlecht 2022–23
1 Club Brugge 2023–24
1 Genk 2023–24
Czech Republic Czech Republic (4) 2 Slavia Prague 2021–22, 2022–23
1 Jablonec 2021–22
1 Slovácko 2022–23
1 Viktoria Plzeň 2023–24
Denmark Denmark (4) 1 Copenhagen 2021–22
1 Randers 2021–22
1 Silkeborg 2022–23
1 Nordsjælland 2023–24
France France (4) 1 Marseille 2021–22
1 Rennes 2021–22
1 Nice 2022–23
1 Lille 2023–24
Turkey Turkey (4) 1 İstanbul Başakşehir 2022–23
1 Sivasspor 2022–23
1 Fenerbahçe 2023–24
1 Beşiktaş 2023–24
Netherlands Netherlands (3) 3 AZ 2021–22, 2022–23, 2023–24
1 Feyenoord 2021–22
1 Vitesse 2021–22
Israel Israel (3) 2 Maccabi Tel Aviv 2021–22, 2023–24
1 Maccabi Haifa 2021–22
1 Hapoel Be'er Sheva 2022–23
Cyprus Cyprus (3) 1 Anorthosis 2021–22
1 Omonia 2021–22
1 Apollon Limassol 2022–23
England England (3) 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2021–22
1 West Ham United 2022–23
1 Aston Villa 2023–24
Germany Germany (3) 1 Union Berlin 2021–22
1 1. FC Köln 2022–23
1 Eintracht Frankfurt 2023–24
Slovakia Slovakia (2) 3 Slovan Bratislava 2021–22, 2022–23, 2023–24
1 Spartak Trnava 2023–24
Romania Romania (2) 2 CFR Cluj 2021–22, 2022–23
1 FCSB 2022–23
Italy Italy (2) 2 Fiorentina 2022–23, 2023–24
1 Roma 2021–22
Norway Norway (2) 2 Bodø/Glimt 2021–22, 2023–24
1 Molde 2022–23
Serbia Serbia (2) 2 Partizan 2021–22, 2022–23
1 Čukarički 2023–24
Switzerland Switzerland (2) 2 Basel 2021–22, 2022–23
1 Lugano 2023–24
Ukraine Ukraine (2) 2 Zorya Luhansk 2021–22, 2023–24
1 Dnipro-1 2022–23
Armenia Armenia (2) 1 Alashkert 2021–22
1 Pyunik 2022–23
Austria Austria (2) 1 LASK 2021–22
1 Austria Wien 2022–23
Bulgaria Bulgaria (2) 1 CSKA Sofia 2021–22
1 Ludogorets Razgrad 2023–24
Kazakhstan Kazakhstan (2) 1 Kairat 2021–22
1 Astana 2023–24
Slovenia Slovenia (2) 1 Mura 2021–22
1 Olimpija Ljubljana 2023–24
Poland Poland (2) 1 Lech Poznań 2022–23
1 Legia Warsaw 2023–24
Scotland Scotland (2) 1 Heart of Midlothian 2022–23
1 Aberdeen 2023–24
Finland Finland (1) 2 HJK 2021–22, 2023–24
Greece Greece (1) 2 PAOK 2021–22, 2023–24
Kosovo Kosovo (1) 2 Ballkani 2022–23, 2023–24
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan (1) 1 Qarabağ 2021–22
Estonia Estonia (1) 1 Flora 2021–22
Gibraltar Gibraltar (1) 1 Lincoln Red Imps 2021–22
Latvia Latvia (1) 1 RFS 2022–23
Liechtenstein Liechtenstein (1) 1 Vaduz 2022–23
Lithuania Lithuania (1) 1 Žalgiris 2022–23
Republic of Ireland Republic of Ireland (1) 1 Shamrock Rovers 2022–23
Spain Spain (1) 1 Villarreal 2022–23
Sweden Sweden (1) 1 Djurgården 2022–23
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina (1) 1 Zrinjski Mostar 2023–24
Croatia Croatia (1) 1 Dinamo Zagreb 2023–24
Faroe Islands Faroe Islands (1) 1 2023–24
Hungary Hungary (1) 1 Ferencváros 2023–24
Iceland Iceland (1) 1 Breiðablik 2023–24

Season in Bold: Team qualified for knockout phase

Awards

Starting from the first edition of the competition, UEFA introduced the UEFA Europa Conference League Player of the Season award.

The jury is composed of the coaches of the clubs which participate in the group stage of the competition, together with 55 journalists selected by the European Sports Media (ESM) group, one from each UEFA member association.

Pellegrini, the first winner of the Player of the Season award in 2022
Winners
Season Player Club
UEFA Europa Conference League Player of the Season
2021–22 Italy Lorenzo Pellegrini Italy Roma
2022–23 England Declan Rice England West Ham United

In the same season, UEFA also introduced the UEFA Europa Conference League Young Player of the Season award.

Winners
Season Player Club
UEFA Europa Conference League Young Player of the Season
2021–22 Colombia Luis Sinisterra Netherlands Feyenoord
2022–23 France Andy Diouf Switzerland Basel

In the same season, UEFA also introduced the UEFA Europa Conference League Top Scorer of the Season award.

Winners
Season Player Club
UEFA Europa Conference League Top Scorer of the Season Goals
2021–22 Nigeria Cyriel Dessers Netherlands Feyenoord 10
2022–23 Brazil Arthur Cabral Italy Fiorentina 7
Switzerland Zeki Amdouni Switzerland Basel

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Eight teams, transferred from the UEFA Europa League, join after the group stage.

References

  1. ^ "2024/25 UEFA Conference League: Matches, final, key dates". UEFA. 30 April 2024. Retrieved 2 May 2024.
  2. ^ "'Europa League 2': Uefa confirms new tournament from 2021". BBC Sport. 2 December 2018. Archived from the original on 8 December 2018. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d "UEFA Executive Committee approves new club competition". UEFA.com (Press release). Union of European Football Associations. 2 December 2018. Archived from the original on 13 May 2019. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  4. ^ "Uefa ponders third competition beneath Champions League and Europa League". The Guardian. Associated Press. 16 September 2015. Archived from the original on 28 April 2019. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  5. ^ "Uefa set to introduce third European club competition from 2021–22". The Guardian. PA Media. 11 September 2018. Archived from the original on 28 April 2019. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  6. ^ "Format change for 2020/21 UEFA Nations League". UEFA.com (Press release). Union of European Football Associations. 24 September 2019. Archived from the original on 26 September 2019. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  7. ^ "UEFA Europa Conference League – What Do the Winners Get?". UEFA. 1 September 2022. Retrieved 24 March 2023.
  8. ^ "Mosta vs Spartak Trnava – stats, H2H, lineups". FotMob. 6 July 2021. Archived from the original on 9 July 2021. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  9. ^ "Who Scored the First Goals in UEFA's Competitions?". UEFA Europa Conference League. Union of European Football Association. 14 September 2021. Retrieved 13 March 2023.
  10. ^ "Harry Kane marvels at bonus Europa Conference League hat-trick | Football News". Sky Sports. 1 October 2021. Archived from the original on 2 February 2022. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  11. ^ "ΠΑΟΚ-Μίντγιουλαντ 2–1 (πεν. 5–3): Έγραψε ιστορία ξορκίζοντας κατάρα 48 ετών!" [PAOK-Midtjylland 2–1 (pen. 5–3): He made history by exorcising a 48-year-old curse!]. Novasports (in Greek). Nova Sports. 25 February 2022. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  12. ^ "Hein the GOAT Vanhaezebrouck: 'A serial winner who has brought Gent to life'". BBC Sport. 25 May 2022. Retrieved 25 May 2022.
  13. ^ Magee, Will (3 November 2022). "West Ham Score Three to Beat FCSB, Secure Perfect Europa Conference League Run and Top Group". eurosport.co.uk. Retrieved 24 March 2023.
  14. ^ Burrows, Ben (28 June 2023). "UEFA Europa Conference League to be renamed". The Athletic. Retrieved 28 June 2023.
  15. ^ "UEFA Europa Conference League to be renamed UEFA Conference League next season | UEFA Europa Conference League". UEFA.com. 28 June 2023. Retrieved 29 June 2023.
  16. ^ a b c "UEL2 Access List 2021–24" (PDF). UEFA.com. Union of European Football Associations. 2 December 2018. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 December 2018. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  17. ^ "UEFA approves final format and access list for its club competitions as of the 2024/25 season". UEFA. 10 May 2022. Archived from the original on 11 May 2022.
  18. ^ "uefadirect 7/09" (PDF). p. 7. Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 August 2020.
  19. ^ "Distribution to clubs from the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League and the 2021 UEFA Super Cup Payments for the qualifying phases Solidarity payments for non-participating clubs" (PDF). UEFA.com (Press release). Union of European Football Associations. 20 May 2021. Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 August 2021. Retrieved 20 June 2021.