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UEFA Europa League
The UEFA Europa League logo.
Founded 1971 (2009 in its current format)
Region Europe (UEFA)
Number of teams 48 (group stage)
+8 clubs join after Champions League group stage[1]
160 (total)
Current champions Ukraine Shakhtar Donetsk (1st title)
Most successful club Italy Juventus
Italy Internazionale
England Liverpool
(3 titles)
2009–10 UEFA Europa League

The UEFA Europa League (previously called the UEFA Cup) is an annual UEFA-organised football cup competition for eligible European football clubs. It is the second most prestigious European club football contest after the UEFA Champions League. Clubs qualify for the competition based on their performance in their national leagues and cup competitions.

Previously called the UEFA Cup, the competition as of June 2009 for the 2009-10 football season is now the Europa League,[2][3] following a change in format. For UEFA footballing records purposes, the Europa League and UEFA Cup are considered the same competition, with the change of name being simply a rebranding.

The competition began in 1971 and replaced the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, but, for UEFA footballing records purposes, the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup is not recognised as the direct predecessor of the UEFA Cup.[4] In 1999, the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup was abolished and merged with the UEFA Cup.[5] For the 2004/05 competition a group stage was added prior to the knock out stage. The 2009 rebranding included a merge with the UEFA Intertoto Cup, producing an enlarged competition format, with an expanded group stage and changed qualifying criteria.

Shakhtar Donetsk are the current champions of the competition, having beaten Werder Bremen in the 2009 final on 20 May 2009, the last time the competition was known as the UEFA Cup.

The most successful clubs in the competition are, in chronological order, Juventus, Internazionale and Liverpool, all with three titles apiece.[6]



The UEFA Cup logo before 2004

The UEFA Cup was first played in the 1971–72 season, with an all-English final of Wolverhampton Wanderers versus Tottenham Hotspur, with Spurs taking the first honours.

The competition was traditionally open to the runners-up of domestic leagues, but the competition was merged with UEFA's previous second-tier European competition, the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, in 1999. Since then, the winners of domestic cup competitions have also entered the UEFA Cup. Also, clubs eliminated in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League and the third placed teams at the end of the group phase could go on to compete in the UEFA Cup. Also admitted to the competition are three Fair Play representatives, eleven UEFA Intertoto Cup winners, and winners of some selected domestic League Cup competitions.

The UEFA Cup logo from 2004 to 2009

The winners keep the trophy for a year before returning it to UEFA. After its return, the club can keep a four-fifths scale replica of the original trophy. The regulations also state that the original trophy is awarded to any club that wins the UEFA Cup three times in a row or five times overall, though this has yet to occur as of 2009.

Four teams have won the UEFA Cup as well as their domestic league and cup competitions in the same season, those being IFK Göteborg in 1982, Galatasaray in 2000, Porto in 2003 and CSKA Moscow in 2005. This accomplishment is known as a treble that only Galatasaray completed with the European Super Cup. Additionally, Tottenham Hotspur, Borussia Mönchengladbach, IFK Göteborg (twice), Ajax, Galatasaray and Feyenoord are the only teams to have won the cup without suffering a single loss in their campaign. RCD Espanyol is the single runner-up without a defeat. IFK Göteborg played 25 consecutive matches in the UEFA Cup between 1980 and 1987 without a single loss, including their 1981-82 and 1986-87 winning campaigns.

From the 2009–10 season, the competition is known as the 'UEFA Europa League'.[2][3] At the same time, the UEFA Intertoto Cup, UEFA's third-tier competition, was discontinued and merged into the new Europa League.


The UEFA Cup, also known as the Coupe UEFA, is the trophy awarded annually by UEFA to the football club that wins the UEFA Europa League. Before the 2009–10 season both the competition and the trophy were known as 'the UEFA Cup'.

Before the competition was renamed the UEFA Europa League in the 2009–10 season, the UEFA regulations stated that a club could keep the original trophy upon their third consecutive win or fifth win overall.[7] However under the new regulations the trophy remains in UEFA's keeping at all times. A full-size replica trophy is awarded to each winner of the competition. Also a club that wins three consecutive times or five times overall will receive a 'special mark of recognition'.[8]

The trophy was designed and crafted by Bertoni for the 1972 UEFA Cup Final. It weighs 15 kg and is silver on a yellow marble plinth.[9]

Europa League anthem

The Paris Opera under the direction of composer Yohann Zveig recorded the anthem of the UEFA Europa League in March–May 2009. This theme for the re branded UEFA Cup competition was first officially unveiled at the Grimaldi Forum on 28 August 2009 before the 2009–10 season group stage draw.

The anthem is to be played before every Europa League game at a stadium hosting such an event and also before every television broadcast of a Europa League game as a musical element of the competition's opening sequence.

Zveig himself hopes that his anthem will achieve a similar success as the UEFA Champions League Anthem in terms of global recognition.[10][11]


Qualification for the competition is based on UEFA coefficients, with better entrance rounds being offered to the more successful nations. Actually, each association has a standard number of three berths, excluding only the nations ranked 7 to 9, which have four places, while San Marino, Andorra and Liechtenstein have only one place. Usually, places are awarded to teams who finish in various runners-up places in the top-flight leagues of Europe and the winners of the main cup competitions. A few countries have secondary cup competitions but the only countries which currently grant a UEFA Europa League place to their secondary cup winners are England and France.

If the previous UEFA Europa League title-holders are not eligible to take part in either of the current UEFA club competitions (UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League) by virtue of their domestic form, the UEFA Administration may, at the request of the association of the club concerned, admit this club to the current UEFA Europa League competition. Its participation will not be at the expense of the contingent of its association.

Qualification can be quite complicated if one team qualifies for European competition through two different routes. In all cases, if a club is eligible to enter the UEFA Champions League then the Champions League place takes precedence and the club does not enter the UEFA Cup. The UEFA Cup place is then granted to another club. If a team qualifies for European competition through both winning a cup and league placing, the "spare" UEFA Cup place will go to either the cup runners-up or the highest placed league team which has not already qualified for European competition, depending on the rules of the national association.

Three more berths are given to federations that finish above a certain level in UEFA's Fair Play table. The top three federations automatically receive a Fair Play entry if their rating is at least 8.0. The berth goes to the highest-placed team in the Fair Play table of that country's top league that has not already qualified for Europe.

More recently, clubs that are knocked out of the qualifying round and the group stage of the Champions League can also join the UEFA Cup, at different stages (see below).



UEFA coefficients were introduced in 1980 and, until 1999, they gave a greater number of berths in UEFA Cup to the more successful nations. Three nations had four places, five nations had three places, thirteen nations had two places, and eleven nations only one place. Since 1999, a similar system is used for UEFA Champions League. Before 1980, the entrance criteria of last Fairs Cup were used.

Competition format

Historical formats

The competition was traditionally a pure knockout tournament. All ties were two-legged, including the final. Starting with the 1997-98 season, the final became a one-off match, but all other ties remained two-legged.

Before the 2004-05 season, the tournament consisted of one qualifying round, followed by a series of knockout rounds. The 16 losers in the third qualifying round of the Champions League entered at the first round proper; later in the tournament, the survivors would be joined by third-place finishers in the group phase of the Champions League.

From the 2004-05 season competition started with two knockout qualifying rounds held in July and August. Participants from associations ranked 18 and lower entered the first qualifying round with those from associations ranked 9–18 joining them in the second qualifying round. In addition, three places in the first qualifying round were reserved for the UEFA Fair Play ranking winners, and eleven places in the second qualifying round for the UEFA Intertoto Cup winners.

Winners of the qualifying rounds then joined teams from the associations ranked 1–13 in the first round proper. In addition, losers in the third qualifying round of the Champions League also joined the competition at this point along with the current title-holders (unless they had qualified for the UEFA Champions League via their national league), for a total of 80 teams total in the first round.

After the first knockout round, the 40 survivors entered a group phase, with the clubs being drawn into eight groups of five each. Unlike the Champions League group phase, the UEFA Cup group phase was played in a single round-robin format, with each club playing two home and two away games. The top three teams in each of the eight groups qualified for the main knockout round along with the eight third-placed teams in the Champions League group phase. From then on a series of two-legged knockout ties were played before a single-legged final, traditionally held on the Wednesday in May immediately preceding the Champions League final.

Current format

From the 2009–10 season, the competition has been rebranded as the UEFA Europa League in a bid to increase the competition's profile.[2] As well as changing the competition's name, an extra 16 teams now qualify for the main stages of the competition, with the group stage now consisting of 12 groups of four teams (in a double round robin), with the top two placed teams in each group progressing. The competition then progresses in much the same way as the previous format, with 4 rounds of two-legged knockout rounds and a one-off final held at a neutral ground meeting UEFA's Elite stadium criteria.

Qualification has also changed significantly. Associations ranked 7–9 in the UEFA coefficients will send the Cup winner and three other teams to the UEFA Europa League qualification, all other nations send a Cup winner and two other teams, except Liechtenstein, Andorra and San Marino, who will only send a Cup winner. Usually, the other teams will be the next highest ranked clubs in each domestic league after those qualifying for the UEFA Champions League, however France and England will continue to use one spot for their League Cup winner. Additionally, three places in the first of four qualifying rounds are still reserved for Fair Play winners. For the inaugural 2009–10 season these places will go to Rosenborg of Norway, Randers of Denmark and Motherwell of Scotland. With the scrapping of the Intertoto Cup there will no longer be spaces reserved in the qualifying rounds for teams qualifying through that route. Generally, the higher an association is ranked in the UEFA coefficients, the later its clubs start in the qualification, however every team except the title holder has to play at least one qualification round.

Apart from the teams mentioned, an additional 15 losing teams from the Champions League qualification round three will enter in the fourth and last UEFA Europa League qualification round, formerly known as the first round, and the 10 losers of the Champions League qualification round 4 will directly enter the UEFA Europa League group stage. The 12 winners and the 12 runners-up in the group stage will advance to the first knock out round, together with eight 3rd placed teams from the Champions League group stage. The losing finalist for the domestic cup competition will still be entitled to be entered for the UEFA Europa League should the domestic cup winners qualify for the UEFA Champions League.[12]


The UEFA Cup finals were played over two legs until 1997. The first final was played on 3 May 1972 in Wolverhampton and 17 May 1972 in London. The first leg between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur was won 2–1 by the away side. The second leg finished as a 1–1 draw, meaning that Tottenham Hotspur became the first UEFA Cup winners.

The one-match finals in pre-selected venues were introduced in 1998. A venue must meet or exceed UEFA 4-star standards to host UEFA Cup finals. On two occasions, the final was played at a finalist's home ground: Feyenoord defeated Borussia Dortmund at De Kuip, Rotterdam in 2002, and Sporting CP lost to CSKA Moscow at their own José Alvalade Stadium, Lisbon in 2005.

The winner of the last UEFA Cup final (prior to the competition being rebranded the UEFA Europa League) was Shakhtar Donetsk on 20 May 2009. The Ukrainian team beat Werder Bremen of Germany 2-1 at Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ The top two teams in each group advance to the round of 32, where they are joined by the eight third-place teams in the Champions League group phase.
  2. ^ a b c "UEFA Cup gets new name in revamp". Retrieved 26 September 2008. 
  3. ^ a b "UEFA Cup to become UEFA Europa League". Retrieved 26 September 2008. 
  4. ^ "UEFA Cup: All-time finals". Retrieved 13 July 2009. 
  5. ^ "UEFA Cup History". Retrieved 27 April 2008. 
  6. ^ "Competition format". UEFA. 2005-07-13. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  7. ^ "Regulations of the UEFA Cup 2007/08, page 6, II Cup and Medals, Article 4, Cup". UEFA. Retrieved 1 August 2009. 
  8. ^ "Regulations of the UEFA Europa League 2009/10, page 7, III Trophies and medals, Article 5, Trophy". UEFA. Retrieved 1 August 2009. 
  9. ^ "UEFA Europa League History". UEFA. Retrieved 1 August 2009. 
  10. ^ "UEFA Europa League anthem makes debut". Union of European Football Associations. Retrieved 29 August 2009. 
  11. ^ "Yohann ZVEIG on MySpace Music". MySpace. Retrieved 18 September 2009. 
  12. ^ 2009/10 Competition format,

External links


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