UEFA Europa League vs Conference League: difference explained

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UEFA, the governing body for European football, organizes several continental club competitions. The UEFA Europa League and the UEFA Conference League are the most prestigious and popular competitions.


Both of these tournaments offer exciting football action, but there are differences in the level of competition, the number of teams participating, and the qualifying criteria. While UEFA organizes both tournaments, there are several differences between the two. Here are some of the key differences:


1. Prestige

The Europa League is the second-tier competition after the UEFA Champions League. It has a higher prestige and prize money than the Conference League, the third-tier competition.


The winner of the UEFA Europa League qualifies for the next season’s UEFA Champions League group stage. In contrast, the winner of the UEFA Europa Conference League qualifies for the next season’s UEFA Europa League group stage unless they qualify for the UEFA Champions League through their domestic performance.

Read: League Cup  vs FA Cup: Difference explained

2. Number of Teams


The Europa League involves 48 teams, while the Conference League involves 32 teams. This means that more matches will be played in the Europa League, and the competition provides a greater challenge for the participating teams.


3. Teams and leagues 


The Europa League attracts teams from higher-ranked UEFA member associations, such as England, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Russia, Belgium, and Ukraine. Some teams that have participated in the current season of the competition include Manchester United from England, Lyon from France, Real Sociedad from Spain, Roma from Italy, and Union Berlin from Germany.


Teams from lower-ranked member associations, such as Scotland, Poland, Serbia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Romania, Greece, Turkey, and Israel, primarily contest the UEFA Europa Conference League.


Some teams that have participated in the competition’s inaugural season include Tottenham Hotspur from England, Roma from Italy, West Ham United from England, Fiorentina from Italy, Gent from Belgium, Lech Poznań from Poland, and Hearts from Scotland.

Read: Premier League vs Champions League: Which is better and teams should prioritise?

4. History and records


The UEFA Europa League has been running since 2009/10 when it replaced the UEFA Cup as the second-tier competition. The most successful team in its history is Sevilla from Spain, who have won it six times.


The UEFA Europa Conference League is a new competition that started in 2021/22. Roma was crowned as the inaugural Conference League champions as they defeated Feyenoord.


5. Financial Rewards


The Europa League offers higher financial rewards for the participating teams, and the prize money is significantly higher than that of the Conference League. The Europa League is also more attractive to sponsors, which means the participating teams can generate more revenue from the competition.

Read: Conference League prize money – how much does the winner get?

6. Schedule


The Europa League fixtures are usually played on Thursday nights, while the Conference League fixtures are on Thursdays and Wednesdays. This means that the Europa League fixtures do not clash with the Champions League fixtures, which take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.


Wrapping up 

While both the Europa League and the Conference League offer exciting football action for fans, there are several differences between the two tournaments.


The Europa League is a more established and prestigious tournament with higher financial rewards and a more challenging level of competition. The Conference League is a newer competition that allows smaller clubs to compete in a European competition.