After twenty-two years, the old continent will once again have three nationwide cup club competitions. The Champions League (LM) and the European League (EL) will be joined by the European Conference League (EKL) from the 2021/22 season. This is also important from the point of view of Slovakia, as most of our representatives in the cup Europe will move into the newly emerging competition, which will represent the third level of performance hierarchically.
The reason is our unflattering position in the ranking of countries, which determines the number of places in individual competitions. We last experienced three parallel competitions on our continent in 1998/99, when the Cup Winners’ Cup (PVP) ended.
FROM SEASON 2021/22 UEFA TRIGGER TO THE EUROPEAN CONFERENCE LEAGUE, MOST OF THE SLOVAK CUP REPRESENTATIVES WILL MOVE INTO IT
After the 2019/20 season, Slovakia was in 30th place in the aforementioned club renking of the European Football Union (UEFA), which takes into account the results of the previous five years. It is this position that determines the number of clubs from individual countries for individual competitions for the year 2021/22, when the European Conference League will also appear on the scene for the first time.
By the way, as our representatives in Europe did not do very well in the current season and after two relatively successful years we did not have a representative in the group phase of the European League, our country fell by two more places in the ranking. Even in connection with the year 2022/23, there will be no shift in the context of the deployment of our teams, which will have to break through the sieve of the pre-school from (almost) from the very bottom.
At the same time, due to the current position, we lack very little, specifically an improvement by one place, so that our two teams (the winner of the cup and the second team of the league) start in the 2nd preliminary round of the EKL. If we improved by two places, even all three of our representatives would start in the 2nd preliminary round. But let’s be fine.
From our champion’s point of view, not much has changed in connection with the European number one cup – the Champions League. The winner of the highest Slovak competition will also start in the 2021/22 season in the 1st preliminary round, together with 32 other champions from their countries. They will be joined by two winners of the 0th preliminary round, so a total of 34 clubs will be beaten by 17 places in the 2nd preliminary round.
If the Slovak champion manages to overcome up to four obstacles, ie he goes through the first, second and third preliminary round and subsequently also through the playoffs, he gets into the lucrative group phase of LM. In the era of Slovakia’s independence, only three clubs have played this competition so far: 1. FC Košice (1997/98), Artmedia Petržalka (2005/06) and MŠK Žilina (2010/11).
As in previous years, it will be true now that after one hesitation in Europe, our master will not end, but will move to a hierarchically lower competition. However, a change is already taking place here, as it will suddenly be able to “fall” into the EKL in addition to EL. Specifically: if he does not manage the 1st preliminary round in the LM, he goes to the 2nd preliminary round of the EKL. If he does not manage the 2nd preliminary round in LM, he goes to the 3rd preliminary round EL. If he does not manage the 3rd preliminary round in LM, he goes to the play-off EL. Finally, if he drops out of the LM playoffs, he will move to the EL group.
The group phase of the Champions League will continue to have 32 participants, and a total of 80 teams from 54 UEFA member countries will compete in this competition. Only the team from Liechtenstein does not have a seat, as this country does not organize its own top competition.
If we move one level lower, we will find that a fundamental change has taken place in the European League. Not only has the number of clubs in the group phase narrowed there (from the current 48 to 32), but the qualifying part will start only from the 3rd preliminary round. In total, it will contain only two phases (3rd preliminary round, play-off) and a total of 57 clubs will perform in it, while only 20 will be certain before the start of the competition (1 will go to the 3rd preliminary round, 7 to the play-off and 12 directly to groups).
The remaining 37 participants will gradually “move” to EL after dropping out of the Champions League. This is also the only way for a Slovak club to play in the European League from 2021/22, because otherwise only teams from the best fifteen countries will have “access” to the already mentioned UEFA renking (from Spain / 1st place / to the Czech Republic / 15th place.
Well, we finally come to the point, as we wanted to explain the new competition from the UEFA workshop, but without a detailed description of the new scenario for both previous elite competitions (LM and EL) it would not be possible.
The European Conference League will feature the most clubs, up to 184, from all 55 UEFA member states. It is important that Slovakia will continue to have three seats available, as it has so far in the European League. All three of our representatives (cup winner, second and third team from the league) will start in the 1st preliminary round. If the winner of the cup is also the league champion, the second, third and winner of the draw for the last place in Europe will be presented in EKL.
A total of four qualifying preliminary rounds are available (1st, 2nd, 3rd, play-off), followed by a group phase with 32 participants. Unsuccessful teams from both LM and EL will be “transferred” to the EKL on the basis of a set key.