UEFA caught plenty of people off-guard with their announcement of the UEFA Europa Conference League on Tuesday, not least because the name doesn’t exactly translate well into English football.
When we think of the Conference in the UK we tend to think of the first tier of non-league football, but from 2021 to 2024 – at least – it will be given a continental twist.
The new tournament will feature 32 teams in eight groups of four, and will be seen as the third tier of European football, following on from the Champions League and the Europa League.
But just what is it, and which teams will qualify for it?
We’ve attempted to explain all here.
Why has it been introduced?
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says that the tournament has been introduced following the “widespread demand” of more accessible European football to teams from less traditionally successful nations.
“The new UEFA club competition makes UEFA’s club competitions more inclusive than ever before,” he said on Tuesday.
“There will be more matches for more clubs, with more associations represented in the group stages. This competition was borne out of ongoing dialogue with clubs through the European Club Association (ECA).
“There was a widespread demand by all clubs to increase their chances of participating more regularly in European competition. This has been achieved with a strategic approach and in accordance with UEFA’s objective of having both more quality and more inclusivity in our club competitions.”
Who can qualify from England?
As one of the top five leagues in Europe, the Premier League will only be allowed one entrant into the Europa Conference League, unlike four in the Champions League and three in the Europa League.
As it stands, the winners of the Carabao Cup next season will qualify for the playoff round of competition in 2021.
If the Carabao Cup winners have also qualified for the Champions League or Europa League, Europa Conference League qualification will pass down to either sixth or seventh place in the Premier League.
When will the games be?
Europa Conference League matches will be on Thursdays, like Europa League matches.
They are set to have earlier kick-off times, although that may depend on host broadcasters.
How will it affect the Champions League and Europa League?
The Europa Conference League will have no affect on the Champions League, but it will on the Europa League.
Teams finishing third in their Europa League group will drop down into the Europa Conference League, as third-placed Champions League teams currently do into the Europa League.
The winners of the Europa Conference League will earn a spot in the Europa League group stages for the following season.