Do UEFA Europa Conference League winners qualify for the Europa League? Bonus prize for Olympiacos or Fiorentina

The 2024 UEFA Europa Conference League final will take place on Wednesday, May 29.

Olympiacos will face a special occasion at the OPAP Arena in Athens, where they will aim to count on some boisterous Greek support against Serie A side Fiorentina.

This will be the third final in this competition’s short history. Jose Mourinho led Roma to the trophy in its inaugural season with a win over Feyenoord in Tirana, Albania, and West Ham defeated Fiorentina in the 2023 final thanks to a late winner from Jarrod Bowen.

La Viola will hope to go one better in 2024 by winning the trophy and securing a qualification spot for a somewhat grander European competition.

The Sporting News looks at the award that awaits the Europa Conference League winners, what happens if they have already qualified for European competition in 2024/25, and how the Europa League format is changing for next season.

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Do the Europa Conference League winners qualify for the Europa League?

The winners of the Europa Conference League final will earn an invitation to play in the league phase of the 2024/25 UEFA Europa League.

The reward mirrors that of the Europa League winners, who are invited to play in the following season’s Champions League.

West Ham, who won the Europa Conference League in 2023, took their place in the 2023/24 Europa League group stage. They went on to reach the quarterfinals, where they were eliminated by eventual runners-up Bayer Leverkusen.

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What happens if the Europa Conference League winners have already qualified for the Europa League?

The rules have changed slightly when it comes to who gets the Europa League place if the Europa Conference League winners have already qualified.

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In a nutshell, the place does not simply pass to the beaten finalists. Instead, it goes to the club in the Europa League qualifying phase with the best individual coefficient in UEFA’s rankings.

There is a caveat: UEFA does not allow “leapfrogging” here when it comes to the coefficient rankings. The governing body says: “A team from the main path can only move up to the league phase provided that the club is either the domestic cup winner or the highest domestically ranked club from its association that has not already qualified for the league phase of the competition directly. If this is not the case, the automatic league phase place goes to the club with the next best coefficient.”

So, what does this mean for the 2023 finalists?

Olympiacos have secured a place in the Conference League qualifying round for next season by virtue of their domestic league finish. If they win this 2023 final, they will get to skip qualifying and enter the league phase of next season’s tournament.

Fiorentina have a place in the Conference League playoff round due to finishing seventh in Serie A. If they win the final, they will instead qualify automatically for the league phase.

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What is the new Europa League format? ‘League phase’ explained

The 2024/25 Europa League, like the Champions League, is undergoing a major format change.

The competition is expanding to 36 teams from the previous 32. These sides will enter a ‘league phase’, which is replacing the traditional group stage.

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As UEFA explains: “Each side faces eight different teams (four at home, four away). The top eight overall advance directly to the Round of 16; sides finishing from ninth to 24th will contest the knockout round playoffs, with the victors going through to the last 16. From then on it is a straight knockout.”

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