What is the Europa League 2 & can it be a success?

Can the Europa League 2 be a success?

UEFA have confirmed the birth of a new European competition which will be introduced for the 2021/22 season.

The competition has been given the working title "Europa League 2" and it will run alongside the Europa League on Thursday nights.

The competition is part of a reshuffle between 2021-2024 which will see the Europa League halved in size from 64 teams to 32 teams, and an extra play-off round will also be added between the Group Stage and the Round of 16.

The Champions League setup will remain the same, but the new competition will impact the Europa League and qualification for the competition.

Many teams from Scotland may now find themselves shut out from the Europa League. Winner of every league will still be eligible to enter the Champions League, but only teams from UEFA's top 15 nations will be allowed into the Europa League unless a team wins the Europa League 2 competition, securing automatic qualification for the Europa League.

Arsenal Lacazette Europa League

Essentially, this will be a third-tier tournament and teams from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will, as of 2021, go into the qualifiers of the EL 2 competition rather than the Europa League.

The new competition will match the new Europa League in format. There will be eight groups of four with all the group winners progressing to the knockout round. There will then be a play-off between the teams who finish second in the group and the teams who finish third in the higher tournament.

For example, second place in the Europa League group will have a play-off against the team who finishes third in their Champions League group to determine who advances to the Round of 16 for the Europa League.

As part of the reform, at least 34 countries will have teams in the group stage, compared to the current number of 26 with the aim of the competition being to up the level of inclusion.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said: "The new competition makes Uefa's club competitions more inclusive than ever before. There will be more matches for more clubs, with more associations represented in the group stages."This competition was born out of ongoing dialogue with clubs through the European Club Association."

The positives of the new competition

This new competition, without doubt, favours smaller countries the most. For years, Northern Irish and Welsh league teams have failed to qualify for the Champions League or Europa League year on year with no real hope of beating teams with far superior budgets and resources.

That endless cycle should end with the birth of the EL 2, and that's the overall aim of Uefa, to up the level of inclusion for different countries. Smaller nations’ teams will now have a much better chance of reaching European football, albeit the third-tier competition, which will be huge for those clubs.

Smaller clubs will now get to compete in Europe throughout the season and beyond the qualifiers, and they will also be able to bring in prize money as in other European competitions.

Another positive is the play-off system. It's often seemed unfair that Europa League teams have battled their way through the group stage only for a Champions League team to drop in and wipe out the rest of the competition. When the likes of Atletico Madrid and Chelsea have dropped into the Europa League in the past, it has seemed rather unfair on other teams.

In the new system, Europa League teams who finish second in their group will still have to play those teams in the play-off, but in a play-off system, it seems far fairer. There's no automatic progression to the Round of 16.

Antoine Griezmann France Atletico Madrid Europa League Final Marseille

The negatives

On one hand, UEFA are upping inclusion and making it easier for smaller teams to get into European competition. However, on the other, they are also making the Europa League more elite, not allowing teams from smaller nations to enter unless they win the new EL 2.

There's something uncomfortably elitist about only allowing teams from UEFA's top 15 nations to compete in the Europa League.

Of course, it will increase the standard in the Europa League, but it feels a little against the spirit of football not allowing smaller, underdog-type teams to even enter. That's one of the things we love about football, the feeling that, on their day, any team can beat any other.

We've come away from that with the amount of money in the game, but we still get glimpses and the odd David and Goliath story here and there. Now, with the way this competition is to be set up, in the Europa League, we won't even get those glimpses as entrance is reserved for football's 'upper class'.


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