Europa League used to be the UEFA Cup, as much as the Conference League used to be the Intertoto League. Truth is football is an ever-changing game, trying to appeal to an also ever-changing audience and a market that is dead serious about profit, leaving great brands of the sport to whither due to their lack of appeal to the modern audience.
As it stands, the Europa League is where the teams that couldn’t make it to the Champions League to have a shot at European success. Teams discarded from the play-offs, or others that make it into the Europa League by their league position, Europa League predictions are always sideways, at least in the beginning, since a major club can come from the Champions League and dictate the whole progression of the competition: especially if they are in trouble in their domestic league, and want to guarantee their position on the Champions League, which winning Europe League grants. Basically, what happened to Man Utd under Mourinho.
Now, it seems that the tide is changing, and the Europa League will function in quite the different way. But are the changes relevant? Let’s delve into the biggest changes.
Changes in the Europa League
The Europa League, quite like the Champions League, will function on what’s called the Swiss Model, and the number of teams will also increase from 32 to 36.
As will happen on the Champions League, there will be 8 games for each team, in a league-type of scenario, where the first 8 will progress, and from the 9th to the 24th there will be knockouts to see who get to the round of 16.
The good news for those who are fans of Europa League teams is that there won’t be teams dropping off from the Champions League to Europa League, nor from Europa League to the Conference League.
Conversely, the setup with which the campaign starts is locked and it’s only those teams that will have the opportunity to win the title, obviously giving a little more space for smaller teams to reach further into the competition.
Who gets in the 4 extra positions?
Details are muddy at best and buried deep within the bureaucracy of UEFA’s plans. But if the Champions League’s changes are anything to go with, the idea is quite straightforward:
2 of the places will be for leagues whose teams achieved a significant quota in the previous years’ performances, while the last 2 will probably be either from teams who failed to qualify for the Champions League, or clubs that won their domestic title but are in competitions poorly ranked in European competitions.
This may open a place for teams in the 5th and 6th place on the top leagues, considering that in the Champions League the 3rd in the 5th League will be automatically qualified without needing to go through play-offs. If the sentiment is akin to this, these 4 extra positions will probably benefit smaller clubs, or clubs in smaller leagues.
If, however, the previous performances are to be taken seriously (and we still don’t know how much years are to accounted), than the Premier League and the Eredivisie have to upper hand so far: one being a terrible thing for football, and the other a marvelous nuance. It shows the disparity of the rule in all its glory.
Is This a Good Thing?
Ultimately, hope plays a long part in believing this is a good chance. At face value, the idea that the competition is closed to those who first entered may provide a stage for sides that are historical but are still trying to find a way into the hyper-monetized football of today: for instance, clubs like Rangers, Celtic, Anderlecht, etc., may find a place to dwell, show their talent, and eventually profit from the endeavor.
If we are to look at the grim side, it might mean more top 5 league teams populating the ecosystem and further destroying the multicultural landscape that used to be a landmark of European football. Only time will tell, but it is fair to say that this change isn’t a hard pull towards a more multipolar European football scenario.