10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Europa Conference League

The 2023/24 Europa Conference League Final is on the horizon as Fiorentina and Olympiakos will clash in the latter’s home city of Athens.

AEK Athens’ home ground, the Agia Sophia Stadium, will host the final on Wednesday, 29th May 2024, with kick-off at 8 pm UK Time.

Thus far, 140 matches have been played over the course of the tournament, with 410 goals scored (an average of 2.93 per match). 178 teams have participated in the tournament, including those that dropped into the competition from the Europa League and Champions League.

Now, just one final game remains in the Europa Conference League, but did you know this tournament has a somewhat unique history?

With that in mind, we’ve outlined below ten facts about the Europa Conference League.

But before we look at those facts in more detail, let’s check out the latest odds on the final itself with bet365 Sport.

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Europa Conference League Final 2023/24 Odds

Full-Time Result Odds

  • Olympiacos – 3.00
  • Draw – 3.20
  • Fiorentina – 2.35

To Win Outright Odds

  • Fiorentina – 1.66
  • Olympiacos – 2.10

As you can see, the bookies have the Italian runners-up of last season as the favourites to win the game. However, it is worth noting that Olympiacos will be playing the match in their own city, although not their home stadium. That will offer the Greek finalists a significant advantage.

All the odds shown above were correct with bet365 Sport at the time of writing. However, they may have changed in the time since the post was published.

10 Europa Conference League Facts

The Europa Conference League Is Not the First ‘Third’ UEFA Club Competition

The Europa Conference League is not UEFA’s first ‘third’ competition for clubs to compete in. From 1960 through to 1999, the Cup Winners Cup was contested between the major domestic cup winners from UEFA nations.

Technically, the Cup Winners Cup ranked higher than the then UEFA Cup, but that still didn’t save it from the axe in 1999 when UEFA restructured its European club competitions.

The tournament’s most successful team was Barcelona, who won the Cup Winners Cup four times. Only four other teams won the trophy on multiple occasions, Milan, Dynamo Kyiv, Anderlecht and Chelsea.

Famous names to have won the trophy include Atletico Madrid, Sporting Lisbon, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Valencia, Juventus, Ajax, Parma and Lazio.

Several British clubs won the Cup Winners Cup alongside Chelsea: Tottenham, West Ham, Manchester City, Rangers, Aberdeen, Everton, Manchester United, and Arsenal.

The tournament also produced some surprising lesser-known winners, including Slovan Bratislava, FC Magdeburg, Dinamo Tbilisi, Mechelen, Parma and Real Zaragoza.

With the expansion of the Champions League and Europa League in 1999, the Cup Winners Cup was deemed surplus to requirements, meaning Lazio’s 1998/99 victory was the final one in the tournament’s history.

It Is UEFA’s Newest Club Competition

Founded in the 2021/22 season, the Europa Conference League is UEFA’s newest club competition. That season was the first time in 23 years that teams could qualify for one of three UEFA club competitions.

While the tournament’s finances are nowhere near those of the Champions League, simply qualifying for the group stage can earn a team almost €3,000,000. They can then supplement this with €500,000 for every victory in the group stage and €166,000 for every drawn game.

A further payment is made if a team finishes first, second, or third in their Group, as well as payments for being knocked out of the tournament at certain stages of the knockout phase.

The winner pocketed an additional €5,000,000 on top of their previous earnings from the competition, with the runner-up earning €3,000,000.

The Competition Was Designed for Lower-Ranked European Club Teams

The Europa League and Champions League catered to the top-ranking UEFA nations. Many smaller nations felt their clubs were significantly disadvantaged in these tournaments, so the Europa Conference League was developed.

Lower-ranked teams (17th to 48th) tend to have three teams qualify for the tournament. Smaller nations, such as Iceland, Gibraltar, Andorra, Montenegro, and San Marino, all have two qualifiers, while UEFA Nations ranked sixth to 16th have two qualifiers. The top five nations, England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France, have just one team qualifying for the competition.

Despite this weighting in favour of lower-ranked teams, four of the six finalists so far have come from teams in the top five UEFA-ranked countries (AS Roma, West Ham, and Fiorentina), with the other two finalists (Feyenoord and Olympiacos) coming from countries ranked between 6th and 16th in the rankings.

Italian Teams Have Reached All of The First Three Europa Conference League Finals

Despite having just one team qualify directly to the tournament, the winner of the Coppa Italia, Italian teams have reached the final of the Europa Conference League in each of the first three years.

AS Roma were finalists in 2021/22, with Fiorentina reaching the finals of 2022/23 and 2023/24.

Other nations to have a team reach the final are England (West Ham), Netherlands (Feyenoord) and Greece (Olympiacos).

From The 2024/25 Season, There Will Be No Europa Conference League

Strange as it may seem, the Europa Conference League will cease to be in the 2024/25 season.

But don’t worry, the tournament will be remaining, just with a number of changes and under a new name, the UEFA Conference League.

UEFA have made the changes to help distinguish between the new Conference League and the Europa League.

From 2024/25 The Group Stage of the Europa Conference League Will Be Very Different

From the Group Stage onwards, all three UEFA competitions are being changed to a new format.

From next season, a team that enters the Group Stage of one of the three tournaments can only win that tournament.

In the Conference League, as it will be called, the Group Stage will comprise of 36 teams in a single league. Each team will play six matches against six different opponents, three at home, three away.

The top eight teams in the League will then be seeded into the Round of 16.

The teams ranked 9th to 24th will enter the Playoff Round and compete against each other over two legs for a place in the Round of 16.

Also, from 2024/25 Europa League Teams Will Not Drop into The Tournament at the Playoff Stage

UEFA has abolished the somewhat controversial practice of teams from one competition, finishing third in a group, and dropping into the Playoff stages of another competition.

For example, teams that finished third in their Champions League Group Stage group would drop into the Europa League playoffs. Similarly, those that finished third in their Europa League group would drop into the Conference League playoffs.

That has now changed. From next season, teams qualifying for the Group Stages of any of the three UEFA tournaments will only play in that tournament until they are eliminated or win the competition.

The Europa Conference League Awards a Player of The Tournament and Young Player of the Tournament

Although not well publicised, there are individual awards for the best player of the Europa Conference League tournament, and the best young player of the tournament too.

These prizes have been awarded since the first competition in the 2021/22 season.

The winners of these individual prizes so far are: –

Player of the Tournament

  • 2021/22 – Lorenzo Pellegrini (AS Roma)
  • 2022/23 – Declan Rice (West Ham United)

Young Player of the Tournament

  • 2021/22 – Luis Sinisterra (Feyenoord)
  • 2022/23 – Andy Diouf (FC Basel)

Next Season the Europa Conference League Will Be the Biggest European Competition in Terms of Teams Competing

Teams competing in the preliminary rounds of the Europa League and Champions League can still drop into the Conference League from next season. This means around 167 teams are expected to compete in the tournament next season.

That is more than will compete in either the Champions League or the Europa League.

The Europa Conference League Final is the Only UEFA Final not played in a Category 4 or 5 Rated 50,000+ Capacity Stadium

Part of UEFA’s remit for the Conference League was to bring the bigger games and teams to some of the less-popular football countries around Europe.

As such, the Conference League final is the only one that can take place outside of a Category 4 or 5 stadium with a capacity of over 50,000.

Category 4 and 5 stadia are the best and biggest stadia in Europe. Those with the largest capacities tend to host the top finals. Including the Champions League and Europa League finals.

However, the Conference League Final is not limited to these stadia but can played at 4* or 5* stadia with smaller capacities. This opens the competition’s final to be played in far more European venues, especially in lower-ranked UEFA nations.

Outlined below is where the first four Conference League Finals have taken place or will take place:

  • 2021/22 – Arena Kombetare (22,500) in Tirana, Albania (4*)
  • 2022/23 – Fortuna Arena (19,370) in Prague, Czechia (4*)
  • 2023/24 – Agia Sophia Stadium (32,500) in Athens, Greece (4*)
  • 2024/25 – Stadion Wroclaw (42,771) in Wroclaw, Poland (4*)

With the shake-up to all UEFA competitions next season, it is good to see the Europa Conference League become the Conference League. With its own identity and no teams transferring into the competition after the Group Stage, it should serve the needs of the teams that qualify much better from next season onwards.

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