Getting into the Europa League Schedule
The Europa League soccer schedule is the second tier of European club competition behind the Champions League. There are three ways to get onto the Europa League schedule in a season.
The first way is by qualifying through domestic leagues or football associations. The second way is by finishing third in your group of the Champions League that season and dropping down into the Europa League in the knockout round. The third way is by winning the UEFA Conference League the year before and securing a spot in Europa League.
The Europa League schedule gives us matchups of teams from different countries, some big-name teams and some smaller squads. The qualifying typically starts in early August and has one two-legged round between teams eliminated from the Champions League qualifiers.
The winners of the qualifying round face qualified teams in the playoff round. These teams all qualified through their domestic leagues or national cup competitions. After the playoff round, teams are drawn into eight groups of four for the group stage, which plays mostly on Thursday nights from September to November in a double round-robin.
The knockout phase comes in February, and this is when the eight third-place teams from Champions League groups drop into the Europa League. They will face the eight group stage runners up, with the eight group stage winners getting a bye to the round of 16. The round of 16 typically is played in March, with the quarterfinals and semifinals in April as two-legged home and home ties. The final is played on a Wednesday night in late May at a predetermined site.
Brief introduction to the Europa League
The Europa League is operated by the Union of European Football Associations, better known as UEFA. Europa League was founded in 1971 as UEFA Cup and merged with the Winners’ Cup in 1999 to become the second-tier competition below the Champions League. A group stage was added in 2004, and the qualifying rounds were added in 2009 when the name changed to Europa League. The final was played as a two-legged, home and home format until 1997-98, when it moved to one game at a predetermined site.
Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool won the first two titles, giving the UEFA Cup some positive publicity. Liverpool won again in 1975-76, and Juventus won a year later. Other winners in the 1970s and 1980s including big-name clubs like Borussia Monchengladbach, Real Madrid,
Bayer Leverkusen and Napoli. Ajax, Inter Milan, and Bayern Munich won titles in the 1990s. Sevilla started to dominate the competition in 2005-06 and won six titles over the next 14 years. In fact, teams from Spain won 11 of 18 titles between 2004 and 2020.
Teams from the biggest leagues in Europe have played in and won the Europa League over the years. Between 1971 and 2002, teams from Spain, England, Italy, and Germany combined for 38 titles and 28 runner-up performances.
History of Europa League Schedule
The Europa League was introduced in 1971 and has undergone a few changes in scheduling. It started out as a pure knockout round with no group stage and all ties were two-legged, including the final. The final became a single match in 1997-98 and a qualifying round was added before the knockout stage in 2004-05.
The Europa League added a group stage in 2004-05 as well with teams playing a double round-robin in the group stage. The format changed again in 2009-10 with more teams added to qualifying rounds and more teams added to the group stage.
Main Events on Europa League Schedule
The fun of the Europa League is that teams can get drawn against any other team in a blind draw. The only restrictions are that teams from the same country won’t get drawn against each other in the group stage or early knockout rounds. Also teams from the same group won’t meet again in the first two knockout rounds.
The knockout round can feature some blockbuster matchups depending on who has qualified and who drops down from the Champions League. In the past the knockout round has produced Barcelona v. Napoli, Lyon v. Porto, Ajax v. Lille, Manchester United v. AC Milan and Arsenal v. Real Villarreal.
Europa League Main Venues
Stadiums throughout Europe can bid to host the final either as clubs or football associations. Recently the final has been played in stadiums like Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Rhein Energie Stadion, Amsterdam Arena, Allianz Stadium, Etihad Stadium, and Hampden Park.
The club stadiums host the game before the finals so Manchester United’s Old Trafford, Roma’s Stadio Olimpico, Liverpool’s Anfield, Wembley Stadium, Barcelona’s Camp Nou and all the biggest stadiums in Europe are routinely Europa League venues.
After Covid-19 Details
The Europa League season shut down temporarily in 2020 and then resumed behind closed doors with a knockout round in Gdansk, Poland. In 2021, some games and stadiums had full capacity, while others had limited fan allowance. The 2022 Europa League was mostly back to normal, with a few exceptions where communities were seeing a new outbreak.
UEL Schedule Frequently Asked Questions
Qualifying starts in August after the Champions League qualifying ends. The group stage usually runs from late August to early December. The knockout rounds go from February to early May, and the final is on a Wednesday night in late May. Most games are played on Thursday nights.
The Europa League winner can take a variety of paths, either through qualifying, through the Champions League, or directly qualifying. Teams play six games in the group stage and then play at least seven games in the knockout round, possibly playing nine games.
The draws go by round, so the group stage is drawn in August. The knockout round is drawn in December, and each knockout round is drawn the week after the previous round is completed, with the quarterfinals and semifinals drawn at the same time.
Europa League games are played on Thursdays all at night in Europe. The final is played on a Wednesday night, European time.