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Europa League 2021-2022 – What You Need to Know

August 2021

UEFA Europa League football match
The 2021-2022 UEFA Europa League is upon us once again!  The qualifying phase is actually underway as we speak for the teams that are fighting to make it to the group stage.
Let’s take a step back, though, for those new to the Europa League and give a bit of background to try and get everyone up to speed.  Even though the season started in July, there are plenty of matches coming up, and a quick overview of how the tournament works and the changes for this season should help you.

The Europa League – A Brief History

Technically started in 1955 as the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, the Europa League as we know it only dates back to the first UEFA Europa League season in 2009-2010.  
The original league in 1955 only included 11 teams and grew to 64 teams in the 1970-1971 season.  For the rest of the 70s and through four decades, it was known as the UEFA Cup.
Now let’s get into the league’s format for the current season.

Europa League Format

There are 58 teams that will compete in the Europa League for the 2021-2022 season from 55 UEFA member associations.
12 of those members have already qualified for the group stage based on their performance, which is reduced down to the UEFA coefficient.  
This calculation is fairly complex, but the 2021-2022 coefficients represent the performance calculated at the end of the 2019-2020 and includes the previous five seasons.  There definitely won’t be a shortage of offers to choose from.
As the second-tier cup in the UEFA, there are two ways to reach the group stage: one is to compete for the Champion’s League cup and get knocked out in either the qualifying round or group phase, and the second is to meet the requirements of the Europa League and qualify in the main Europa League path.
We’ll get to the changes for the 2021-2022 season a bit later, but 32 teams will compete in the group stage.  There are already 12 teams that qualified automatically based on their rankings.  
There are four primary phases for the Europa League:
  • Qualifying: There are 20 teams from the qualifying phase, Champion’s Path, and Main Path who will compete to qualify for the group stage.  In addition, 6 teams will go to the group stage after losing in the Champion’s League play-off round, and 4 other teams which lost in the Champion’s League third qualifying round
  • Group Stage: This is the main body of the Europa League composed of 32 qualifying teams.  These matches will decide who progresses to the knockout phase starting with the round of 16.
  • Preliminary Knockout Phase: This is an addition for the 2021-2022 season where 8 runners up from the group stage will play 8 third-place teams from the Champion’s League Group Stage.
  • Knockout Phase: The knockout phase includes the 8 winners from the group stage and 8 winners from the preliminary knockout phase.  The teams play through the round of 16, quarter finals, semi-finals, and then the final, which will be played May 18, 2022 at Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán in Seville.

Changes for the 2021-2022 Season

The UEFA launched a new club competition called the Europa Conference League for 2021-2022.  Because of that launch, the Europa League saw a few changes.
–  The Group Stage was originally 48 teams, but that has now been whittled down to only 32 teams.
–  The additional knockout phase mentioned above, the Preliminary Knockout Phase, will make its debut, pitting the 8 winners of the group stage against the 8 third-place teams from the Champion’s League Group Stage.
–  Matches will still be played on Thursday, though the Europa League games will play alongside the new UEFA Europa Conference League games.

Teams and Rankings

The top five associations of Spain, England, Germany, Italy, and France each have two teams for a total of ten.  These teams are automatically qualified for the group stage in addition to the teams from Portugal and Russia who place 6th and 7th, respectively.
The association rankings come from the UEFA association coefficients, which are calculated similarly to the club coefficients.
Many of the teams that will eventually play in the Europa League are still competing in the Champion’s League, but this won’t be decided until later in the season.

Who Makes the Group Stage?

Since the season is already well underway, we’re now awaiting the 2nd leg of the 3rd qualifying round and then playoffs for the qualifying phase to find out who moves onto the Group Stage.
As mentioned, there are already 12 teams that automatically qualify: 
  • Betis (Spain)
  • Real Sociedad (Spain)
  • Frankfurt (Germany)
  • Leverkusen (Germany)
  • Leicester (England)
  • West Ham (England)
  • Lazio (Italy)
  • Napoli (Italy)
  • Lyon (France)
  • Marseille (France)
  • Braga (Portugal)
  • Lokomotiv Moskva (Russia)
After this, there are 16 teams currently awaiting the 2nd leg of the third qualifying round, 10 from the Champion’s Path and 6 from the Main Path.  

Champion’s Path

Omonio vs Flora

Mura vs Žalgaris

Kairat vs Alashkert

Lincoln Red Imps vs Slovan Bratislava

Neftçi Baku vs HJK

Main Path

Jablonec vs Celtic

Rapid Wien vs Anorthosis Famagusta

Galatasaray vs St Johnstone

The 8 victors will move up to the qualifying phase play-offs, where there are already 6 teams ready to compete.  These teams are Randers (Denmark), Zorya Luhansk (Ukraine), AZ (The Netherlands), Fenerbahçe (Turkey), Sturm Graz (Austria), and Royal Antwerp (Belgium).

Match Schedule

The third qualifying round has two legs, and the first already took place on 5 August.  The 2nd leg will take place on 12 Aug to confirm the play-off lineup.
The Qualifying Playoffs will take place on 19 August and 26 August.
There are 6 matchdays for the group stage once the teams are set.
  • Matchday 1:     16 September 2021
  • Matchday 2:     30 September 2021
  • Matchday 3:     21 October 2021
  • Matchday 4:     4 November 2021
  • Matchday 5:     25 November 2021
  • Matchday 6:     9 December 2021
The Knockout stage will take place over eight game days followed by the final.
  • Prelim Knockout:     17 & 24 February 2022
  • Round of 16:             10 & 17 March 2022
  • Quarter Finals:          7 & 14 April 2022
  • Semi-Finals:              28 April & 5 May 2022
  • Final:                        18 May 2022

Final Thoughts – Europa League 2021-2022

The season has started, but the hottest matches haven’t even been fully scheduled yet.  Even though the Champion’s League gets more of the attention, the Europa League is sure to bring some of the best games because many of these teams are hungry for victory.
With a bit of background on the League and an understanding of the formats, you can now get your mates together and make sure you get a table at the pub when the games start playing.


Wendy said:

I want to go! I need information so I can get my mom and daughter on a trip. We sold are horses after 42 years and I miss it. A new adventure this sounds awesome!

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