UEFA Europa League Structure (1971-Now)

EUROPA LEAGUE is the second most prestigious European competition after UEFA Champions League.

The reason why teams participating work hard to win the League. Wait, how well do you know the Europa league structure?

We have all the details in this article. Read through to the conclusion to understand the UEFA Europa League competition.

Note that the Europa League format resembles that of the Champions League. Click here to see the champions league structure. 

We start by looking at the brief history of the League from inception to present.


When was Europa League Founded?

Europa League was founded in 1971 (49 years).

What was the Initial Name of the Europa League? 

The competition was as from 1971 to 2008 known as The EUFA Cup.

When did Europa League Rebrand?

In 2009, The EUFA Cup was rebranded to UEFA Europa League.

Which Teams Participates in Europa League? 

Teams join the competition through domestic leagues, domestic cups, and champions league.

Which Team was the first winner of the Europa League?

Tottenham Hotspurs was the first team to win the Europa League final in 1971 after beating Aston Villa 2-0 at Wembley Stadium, England.

Which is the most successful Club in Europa League?

Sevilla F.C. has won Europa 5 times to become the best club in the competition history.

Who is the Current Europa League Champion?

Chelsea is won the 2019 Europa League after beating Arsenal 4-1.


Qualifying Rounds, Group Stages, and Knock-out stages are the three phases of the competition.


Qualifying stage involves 4 rounds that include Preliminarily round, First qualifying round, Second qualifying roundThird qualifying round, & Play-off round stages. The whole details are as explained below.

Preliminary Round (14 teams)

This round marks the start of the Europa League competition. The Europa preliminary qualifying round is composed of teams from the following paths:

  • 4 teams: winners of the domestic league in rank 52 – 55 association
  • 6 teams: 2nd teams of the domestic league of rank 49 – 54 association
  • 4 teams: 3rd teams of the domestic league in rank 48 – 51 association

Mode of play: The 14 teams play home and away matches. The 7 winners proceed to the next stage.

First Qualifying Round (94 teams)

The 94 teams join through below paths:

  • 7 teams from Europa League preliminary round
  • 26 teams from winners of a domestic league table of rank 26 – 51 association
  • 30 teams from runners-up in the domestic league table of rank 18 – 48 associations
  • 31 teams from 3rd teams in the domestic league table of rank 16 – 47 associations

UEFA draw pairs the 94 teams into 47 pairs.

Each pair play home and away matches in a two-legged format.

The 47 winners proceed to the 2nd qualifying round.

Champions Route and League Route Concepts in Europa League 

Europa League second qualifying round to Play-off rounds use Champions Route and League Route paths to determine the winners.

Champions Route –  teams join Europa League after getting eliminated in the ongoing Champions League.

League Route – teams join Europa League from the domestic league and domestic cup competitions.

Second Qualifying Round (94 Teams)

Champions Route (20 teams)

The 20 teams join in two groups as follows.

The 17 teams that lost in Champions League first qualifying round join this round.

Another 3 teams that lost in Champions League preliminary qualifying round.

UEFA draw pairs the 20 teams into 10 pairs to play a two-legged return match.

The 10 winners proceed to the third qualifying round (Champions Route).

League Route (74 teams)

Two groups of teams join this route.

First, are 47 teams that proceeded from the first qualifying round.

The other 27 teams join according to Association rank as follows:

  • 16 teams: Winners of domestic cup in rank 19 – 25 associations
  • 2 teams:  runners-up of the domestic league table for rank 16 – 17 associations
  • 2 teams: 3rd teamin the domestic league table for rank 13-15 associations
  • 2 teams: 4th team in the domestic league table for rank 7 – 15 associations
  • 2 teams: 5th teamin the domestic league table for  rank 5 – 6 associations
  • 3 teams: 6th teamin the domestic league table for rank 1 – 4 association

Proceeding teams: The 37 winners of the two-legged knock-out proceeds to the league route of the third qualifying round (League Route).

Third Qualifying Round (72  teams)

Champions Route (20 teams)

Teams from three paths join Europa in this round as follows.

10 teams that lost champions league second qualifying round join.

The other 10 teams to join are those that lost in Champions League second qualifying.

A draw pairs the teams into 10 groups that play two-legged matches to find the winners.

The 10 winners proceed to Play-off (Champions Route).

League Route (52 teams)

The 52 teams in this route join from two paths as follows.

First, 37 teams that proceed from the second qualifying round league route.

The other 15 teams join as follows:

  • 2 teams: eliminated from Champions League 2nd qualifying round
  • 5 teams: Winners of rank 13 – 18 associations domestic cup
  • 5 teams: 3rd teams in the domestic league table of rank 7 – 12 association
  • 4th team of rank 6 association

The 26 pairs and two-legged matches yield 26 winners who proceed to the play-off round (League Route).

Play-off Round (42 teams)

Champion Route (16 teams):

10 teams join from 3rd qualifying round (champion route).

6 teams eliminated from champions league 3rd qualifying round (Champion route) also join at this point.

Proceeding teams: 8 winners from two-legged knockout proceed to Europa League group stages.

League Route (26 teams)

Teams that join through League Route are those qualified for Europa League through their league positions in their domestic leagues.

The team joining each round is determined by two factors.

First, the team’s position in the domestic league. Secondly, the team’s coefficient ranking by UEFA.

Proceeding teams: 13 winners from home and away games proceeds to Group stages.

Therefore, a total of 21 (8 from champions route and 13 from league route) proceeds to the group stages.


The Group stage is composed of 48 teams who join as follows:

  • Note that 21 teams are combined winners of Champions route and league route winners in the play-off round.
  • 12 teams who won domestic cup winners of rank 1 – 12 associations
  • 6 Champions League play-off qualification round (Champion Route) losers join.
  • 2 teams that lost champions league playoff (League Route)
  • 2 teams that lost in champions playoff 3rd qualifying round (League Route).
  • The 4th team in of rank 5 association
  • 4 teams from rank 1 – 4 association that finished 5th in their domestic league

Mode of play and ranking

Teams in the same group play a robin-round format and ranked. Therefore, each team plays 6 home and away games against the other three teams in the same group.

Teams then accumulate points for ranking. Three points for a win, a single point for a draw, and no point for a loss. In that regard, the 48 teams are grouped into 12 groups of 4 teams each.

The first two teams in each group proceed to the knock-out stage. This translates to 24 teams proceeding.


A knock-out stage means that losers are knocked out of the competition. There are four phases in this stage.

They include Round of 32 (32 teams), Round of 16 (16 teams), Quarter-finals (8 teams), and Semi-finals (4 teams).

Draw and mode of play: 

UEFA draws the teams in groups. The team with higher aggregate by goals is declared the winner.

If the aggregate ends in a draw, teams play a 30-min extra time and the winner is declared the winner.

If extra time ends in a draw, the teams play a penalty shootout to decide the winner. The penalty winner is declared the winner.

Europa League Round of 32 (32 teams)

This round is composed of 32 teams who join as follows. The first 24 teams join from the Europa League group stages.

The other 8 teams to join are the 3rd placed teams in Champions League group stages tables. Note that both Europa and Champions League group stages conclude at the same time.

A UEFA draw pairs the 32 teams into 16 pairs. Each pair plays two-legged home and away matches to determine the winner.

Europa League Round of 16 

The 16 winners of the round of 32 proceed to the round of knockout stage. The teams are paired in a draw to play a home and away.

Note that a draw for the round of 16 is done alongside champions league round of 16 draw. Winners of the 8 pairs proceed to quarter-finals.

Europa League quarter-finals (8 teams) 

A UEFA draw pairs the 8 teams into 4 pairs. The pairs play two-legged, home and away, knockout matches. The 4 winners of the pairs are ready for a semi-final.

 Europa League Semi-Finals (4 teams)

A draw places the 4 teams into two pairs. Each of the 4 teams now has a 25% chance of winning the competition.

The pairs play two-legged home and away matches to determine the finalists. obviously, the winners proceed to the finals.


Teams: The best two teams in the season are finally at the finals.

Draw: Note there is no draw at this time since there is only one pair.

Venue: The Europa League final venue is a neutral ground pre-determined by EUFA.

Full time: the winner by goals in full time wins the league.

Extra time: In case of a draw, the teams play a 30-minute extra time

Penalties: Should the extra time end in a draw, penalty shoot-out decides the winner.

2019 Europa League Final: 2019 final was an English Affair on 29/05/2019 at Baku Olympic Stadium, Baku, Azerbaijan. Chelsea thrashed Arsenal 4-1 to win the final.

Europa League Winner Awards

The initial benefit for the Europa winner was to qualify for UEFA Super Cup. However, in 2015, the winner qualifies for Champions’ League group stages.

In addition, the winner gets a monetary award of €8.5 Million. On the other hand,  the runners-up win €4.5 million monetary awards.



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