UEFA to Launch Third Tier European Competition Alongside Champions League and Europa League

From 2021, there will be a third European club competition, UEFA has announced.

Explaining the reasons for the development, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said a ‘widespread demand’ for participation at European level had led to the formation of the new tournament, which will be ranked under the Champions and Europa Leagues.

With a working title of ‘UEL2’, the 32-team competition will start at the beginning of the new UEFA cycle, which runs from 2021-2024.

Eight groups of four will whittle down to a round of 16, following a play-off between the second-placed teams and those who finish third in the Europa League.

Quarter-finals and semi-finals will then follow, before the final.

‘The new UEFA club competition makes UEFA’s club competitions more inclusive than ever before,’ Ceferin explained.

‘There will be more matches for more clubs, with more associations represented in the group stages. This competition was borne out of ongoing dialogue with clubs through the European Club Association (ECA).

‘There was a widespread demand by all clubs to increase their chances of participating more regularly in European competition.

‘This has been achieved with a strategic approach, and in accordance with UEFA’s objective of having both more quality and more inclusivity in our club competitions.’

The winner of the new tournament will then earn a place in the Europa League.

UEFA added that the fixtures will be played on a Thursday, the same day as the Europa League, with some games in a new time slot of 16:30 CET.

The governing body will leave it to individual associations to decide the criteria for earning a place, be it through league placing or cup.

ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli welcomed the news, saying: ‘I am delighted that the UEFA Executive Committee has agreed to the changes ECA member clubs have been calling for.

‘We believe that this outcome ensures that the UEFA club competitions continue to develop in a manner which is fair and balanced, meeting the demands and requirements necessary to ensure that football remains the number one sport globally.

‘I would like to add that this whole process is a testimony to the strong collaborative efforts of both ECA and UEFA at all levels.’

In the new competition, there will be eight groups of four teams, with the group winners progressing automatically to the round of 16.

An additional knock-out round will be played before a round of 16 match between the second-placed teams in the groups and the teams who finish third in their Europa League groups.

The winner of the new competition will gain entry to the following season’s Europa League. The competition matches will be played on Thursdays.