What is UEFA Europa League?
Formerly known as the UEFA Cup, Europe's second-most-important cup that provides a safety net for football clubs eliminated from the Champions League.
Competition: UEFA Europa League
Name of Trophy: The Bertoni Trophy
Founded: 1955 (FAIRS CUP), 1971 (UEFA CUP), 2009 (EUROPA LEAGUE)
History and Origin
The UEFA Europa League traces its origins from Switzerland’s Ernst Thommen and Italy’s Ottorino Barrasi (both have served as FIFA vice presidents) as well as England’s Sir Stanley Rous, a former FIFA President. Being the second tier competition for European clubs, after the Champions League, the tournament provides a platform for smaller clubs in Europe to take on other clubs.
The UEFA Europa League was formerly titled the UEFA Cup. Prior to the UEFA Cup was the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup formed in 1955 which brought together teams from a number of European cities, namely Barcelona, London, Milan, Basle, Frankfurt, Birmingham, Leipzig, Lausanne, Zagreb and Copenhagen in the inaugural tournament.
The second tournament held from 1958-60 involved sixteen clubs from the cities. The number of participants has since expanded to include 32 entrants in the tournament by 1962 and currently there are over 100.
In 1971/72, the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup was rebranded to the UEFA Cup after UEFA took charge. Tottenham Hotspur won the first title. The competition saw English, German, Swedish, Dutch and Belgian clubs compete. The north European sides notably dominated in the earlier years.
Later, Real Madrid of Spain and IFK Goteborg of Sweden had successful turns in the 1980s after which the Italian sides took over by winning eight times in a span of eleven seasons. Liverpool, Internazionale, Sevilla and Juventus top the winners list with three titles each.
Evolution of UEFA Europa League
The competition was a two-legged knockout tournament even for the final tie since its inception, except in the final of 1964 and 1965. As from 1998, the final has been contested through a single-leg match.
The UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup was merged with the UEFA Cup in 1999 hence the winners of domestic leagues are eligible participants in the UEFA Cup. Other changes made include guaranteed slots for teams eliminated from the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round and eight clubs in the third position after the completion of group matches.
In 2004/05, the group stage format was adopted and two qualifying rounds were introduced so as to give room for lower ranked teams. The tournament was then rebranded in 2009/10 to the present UEFA Europa League and expanded to accommodate 48 teams at the group stage. These major strides in expansion and prominence have culminated in the recent change that will see the winners of the Europa League play in the UEFA Champions League from 2015.
Organization of UEFA Europa League
UEFA determines the participants of the competition through coefficients which have been in use since 1980. Basically, each association gets three slots with the exception of six nations which according to their rankings get four, two or a single entry. The more successful nations enter in later rounds of the tournament.
Different numbers of teams play in the several rounds. 78 teams play in the first qualifying round followed by 80 and 58 teams in the second and third qualifying rounds respectively. 62 teams face off at the play-off phase. The winner is awarded the UEFA Cup, which remains under UEFA’s safe keeping. However, the club receives a full-size replica of the trophy.
UEFA Europa League Qualification Phase, Group and Format
Teams qualify through their performance in the domestic leagues and cup competitions. The tournament consists of three qualifying rounds, a play-off round, group phase, four knockout stages and a single-leg final tie.
Each team plays an opponent, home and away, in the qualifying and play-off rounds. The side with the superior goal aggregate advances to the next round. Away goals are taken into consideration and penalty kicks are taken to determine the winner in the case of a tie in aggregate and away goals.
Winners of the play-off round qualify for the group stage. The group stage further comprises of the 10 teams that lose the UEFA Champions League play-offs plus other automatic entrants. All teams are drawn into twelve groups to commence the final and most anticipated part of the competition.
UEFA Europa League Tournament Schedule
48 teams are drawn into groups of four with each team playing six matches, both home and away. The matches are played between September and December. The top two teams in every group progress to the knockout rounds.
The 24 teams join the third-placed teams from the Champions’ League group stage in the round of 32. A draw is made ensuring that teams from the same association and group are not drawn together. The teams are further eliminated on the way to the final by playing under the knockout system through the Round of 16, Quarter Finals and Semi Finals. The final is a one-off match played at a neutral ground between the two semi-final winners.
UEFA Europa League teams with most wins
|EUROPA LEAGUE TEAM||COUNTRY||CHAMPIONSHIP WINS|
UEFA Europa League top goalscorers
|NAME OF PLAYER||COUNTRY||GOALS SCORED||YEARS|
|Dieter Müller||West Germany||29||1973-1984|
|Jupp Heynckes||West Germany||23||1971-1975|
|Karl-Heinz Rummenigge||West Germany||22||1977-1989|