Europa League Live
The UEFA Europa League has its inaugural outing from the beginning of the 2009-2010 season and is basically the competition that is replacing, or as some people will rightly point out, the rebranding of, the old UEFA Cup. The UEFA Cup itself went through many transformations since it replaced the old Fairs Cup back in 1971, and this has been to keep up the public’s interest in the competition alive; this was all the more evident after the inception of the Champions League in 1992, which drew the whole worlds focus.
UEFA has decided that the revamp will not only revive public interest in the competition, but will benefit the clubs (and itself, no doubt) financially as well. The new format of the cup/league will see twelve groups of four teams when the competition proper starts. Prior to that though, there is a very complicated elimination process to whittle down the 193 teams that originally enter the competition, with three preliminary qualifying stages followed by a play stage and all this will eventually determine the 48 teams that make it into the group stages.
The process for deciding which teams enter which stage of the competition is a complicated one, and is all down to the country the team is from UEFA coefficient. We will try to explain as clearly as possible how it all works.
When all the coefficients have been taking into consideration, UEFA divides the country associations up into groups so: associations 1-6 will have three teams from their countries, associations 7-9 will have four teams each and associations 10-53 will be represented by three teams each (with the exception of Andorra, San Marino and Liechtenstein, who will only enter one team each).
In the first qualifying (first leg July 2nd 2009 and second leg July 9th 2009) there will be 46 teams in total taking place, 14 teams from associations 37-51 who finished runner up in their leagues, 29 teams from associations 22-51 who finished third in their domestic leagues, and the three teams that entered the competition due to the fair play scheme UEFA has introduced (this season that will be Rosenborg from Norway, Randers from Denmark and Motherwell from Scotland).
When this has been done and dusted, the second qualifying stage takes place on 16th July 2009 (first leg) and 23 July 2009 (second leg) and will comprise of 80 teams. These will be made up of the 23 winners from first qualifying, 24 cup winning teams from associations 30-53, 18 league runners up from associations 19-36, six third placed league teams from associations 16-21, six fourth placed league teams from associations 10-15 and three fifth placed league teams from associations 7-9.
At the end of this qualifying round, 70 teams will then find themselves in the third qualifying stages which begin on 30th July 2009 (first leg) and 6th August 2009 (second leg). The 40 winners from second qualifying will find themselves in the draw, along with 12 cup winners from associations 18-29, three league runners up from associations 16-18, six third placed league teams from associations 10-15, three fourth placed league teams from associations 7-9, three fifth placed league teams from associations 4-6 and three sixth placed league teams from associations 1-3. This mind-boggling format will whittle down the teams to 35, who will then join another 41 teams in the play-off stage.
The stage will take place on 20th August 2009 (first leg) and 27th August 2009 (second leg). Apart from the 35 winners from third qualifying, there will be 17 cup winners from associations 1-17, three third placed league teams from associations 7-9, three fourth placed teams from associations 4-6 and three fifth placed teams from associations 1-3. This group of teams will also be joined from the losing teams from the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round.
When this confusing conundrum has eventually been sorted out, we will be left with the 48 teams who will battle it out in the group stage proper, There will be six matchdays (rather like the Champions League format) which will be taking place on 17th September, 1st October, 22nd October, 5th November, 2-3 December and 16-17 December.
Once the group stage has been concluded, the winners and runners up of the twelve groups, plus the eight third placed teams from the Champions League groups will battle it out in the so-called Round of 32, which is, you will be happy to know, a straight knock-out stage. The first leg of this round will take place on 18th February 2010 with the returns a week later on 25th February 2010. The Round of 16 follows with games on 11th March 2010 and 18th March 2010, which will give us the teams that will make it to the quarter finals.
The eight teams left in this stage will battle it out on 1st April 2010 for the first leg and 8th April 2010 for the second. The semi finals will then take place on the 22nd April and 29th April respectively, which will then leave us with the two teams who will battle it out in the big final that will be taking place at the HSH Nordbank Arena in Hamburg, Germany on 12th May 2010.
The passage from 193 teams in July, to just two teams in May, is a long, arduous and complicated journey, and logistically UEFA has its work cut out. Whether this new format becomes popular is anybody’s guess, but it certainly adds a lot of extra games in t he season for the teams that do make it through to the latter stages. The least amount of games the winner could play in the competition is 17 and the maximum 23; on top of domestic league and cup games you could be looking at the team playing close to 70 games for the season. This can only be detrimental to the teams, the players and the national associations involved, especially as next summer sees the World Cup finals in South Africa. At the end of the day, it is UEFA’s decision, and their decision alone and they will bear any consequences.
Tags: UEFA Europa League, UEFA Cup, UEFA, Andorra