2018/19 Champions League and Europa League Qualification Process

Published on July 9th, 2018 - 9:03 am EST
Written By: Ned Wilson

2018-19 season Champions and Europa League qualification format - Illustration European club football returns this week with both UEFA Champions and Europa leagues in action. The fans of the smaller associations are pumped as their teams start to dream about the big competitions.

Let's look at how the competitions are structured this year and what changes have been made to them.

UEFA Champions League

The UEFA Champions league will feature the usual 32 teams split in eight groups z`of four teams, however, this year 26 teams qualify directly for group stages while the remaining six teams look to lock their spots through the qualifying rounds.

The 26 teams will come into the tournament through the following system:

- UEFA Champions League holders - 1 team
- UEFA Europa League holders - 1 team
- Top four from associations ranked 1st to 4th: Spain, Germany, England, Italy - 16 teams
- Top two from associations ranked 5th and 6th: France, Russia - 4 teams
- Champions of associations ranked 7th to 10th: Portugal, Ukraine, Belgium, Turkey - 4 teams

If the UEFA Champions League holders have qualified for the group stage via their domestic championship, the vacancy will be filled by the champions of the association ranked 11th (Czech Republic), who otherwise compete in the champions path.

Should the UEFA Europa League holders have qualified for the group stage via their domestic championship also, the vacancy will be filled by the third-placed club from the association ranked fifth (France), who otherwise compete in the league path.

Qualifying tournament creates for early summer excitement

Qualifying tournament which starts tomorrow is a two-path tournament also referred to as Champions route and League route.

Champions route sees the associations ranked 11th and below by UEFA association coefficient play it out amongst themselves. This part of the qualifying tournament will include a preliminary round as well as three qualifying rounds and a play-off round. A total of 33 teams will enter the qualifying round while a 34th will be determined through a small preliminary, final-four type, tournament which has already been won by a Kosovar club FC Drita. Four teams are looking to secure their spots through this part of the qualifying.

A League route will consist of 11 teams, namely the third-placed teams of the associations ranked fifth and sixth, and the runners-up of the associations ranked seventh to 15th. They will enter the competition in rounds two and three of the qualifying tournament. After the playoff rounds the two teams left standing will gain their spot in the group stages.

A key change this year is that all teams who lose a qualifying round will get a shot at Europa League qualifying, ensuring that teams who lose in early rounds still have a shot at the European football, which was only the case for the losers of third round of qualifying tournament in previous years. Teams who lose in third qualifying round and play-offs qualify for the UEFA Europa League automatically, as before.

UEFA Europa League also takes off this week with 47 matches on hand in the first round of the first qualifying round.

Let's look at how the competition looks this year.

17 teams automatically qualify for the group stages based on the 2017/2018 UEFA association coefficients. For this year's competition that will provide us with:

- Two teams from associations ranked 1st to 5th: Spain, Germany, England, Italy, France (10)
- One team from associations ranked 6th to 12th: Russia, Portugal, Ukraine, Belgium, Turkey, Czech Republic, Switzerland (7)
- Ten teams also enter the group stage direct from the UEFA Champions League: six teams eliminated in the league path (third qualifying round and play-offs) and four teams eliminated in the champions path play-offs.

The qualifying tournament will also consist of two paths this year, named just like in the UCL qualifying, Champions route and League route.

The Champions route will provide eight group spots and will consist of teams eliminated in the UEFA Champions League champions path between the preliminary round and the third qualifying round. They will be joining the competition after losing their ties in the UCL and will do so in following rounds:

- Second qualifying round - 20 teams eliminated in UEFA Champions League preliminary round and first qualifying round
- Third qualifying round - ten teams eliminated in UEFA Champions League second qualifying round plus ten winners from UEFA Europa League champions path second qualifying round
- Play-offs - six teams eliminated in UEFA Champions League third qualifying round plus ten winners from UEFA Europa League champions path third qualifying round

League route qualifying is the largest competition In Europe!

League Route on the other hand will see participants from all 55 UEFA associations take part making it the largest competition in Europe this year with more 102 teams participating. The participating teams will be as follows:

- Preliminary round - 16 teams enter
- First qualifying round - 86 teams enter plus eight preliminary round winners
- Second qualifying round - 27 teams enter plus 47 first qualifying round winners
- Third qualifying round - 15 teams enter (including the three teams eliminated from the UEFA Champions League league path second qualifying round) plus 37 second qualifying round winners
- Play-offs - 26 third qualifying round winners.

Plenty of excitement comes our way this week and one thing is for sure, the wait is over, the bets are on again, club football is back in Europe and there will be plenty to cheer for both for fans and the clubs.

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