Europa League is still trying to gain a foothold in the collective soccer fans’ consciousness, but one thing fans of the European game do care about are country coefficients. That’s the system UEFA uses to decide how many spots each leg gets in its two continental tournaments. Two years ago, the system got a lot of attention when Germany passed Italy for third, thus claiming an extra Champions League spot at Serie A’s expense.
As it concerns the coefficient, games in Europa League count just as much as those in Champions League, making it a great place for leagues to make up ground in the standings. Three years ago Portugal, despite not having a contender in Champions League, led UEFA in coefficient points because three teams from the Liga Sagres made Europa’s semifinals. The next year, Spain racked up the most points, in large part because Atlético Madrid and Athletic Bilbao make Europa’s final.
Two federations that could use this year’s tournament to make similar moves are Italy and Ukraine, with the Italian contingent looking particularly strong. Napoli and Juventus have both fallen down from Champions League, while Fiorentina, one of the pre-tournament favorites, went undefeated in group play. Lazio also remains alive, having finished second in Group J, but between Juve, the partenopei, and la viola, Serie A has three strong contenders for this title.
For Ukraine, Shakhtar Donetsk will have a chance to reclaim an honor they won in 2009 (when it was called the UEFA Cup), with fellow power Dynamo Kyiv also pushing through to the knockout round. While Shakhtar is dropping from Champions League, Dynamo advance after finishing second in their group, with though Chornomorets Odesa and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk having also taken their groups’ runners up spots.
The progress each league can made toward improving their coefficients is limited, with five years’ worth of results taken into account. Even if Italy pulls a Portugal and puts three teams into the semifinals, they’re not going to reclaim a knockout round spot from Germany. The difference between a great year (coefficient-wise) and an average one is about eight point, and Italy (at 63.105, right now) needs to make up 16 on Germany (79.498).
But you have to start somewhere. If Italy can dominate Europa League, they could lay the groundwork to displace Germany (or England) down the road. And if Ukraine can take advantage of four teams in Europa’s knockout round, they could start thinking about replacing France or Portugal’s places among the leagues that get three Champions League spots.
Until then, here are the clubs that are going through to the Round of 16 in Europa League, with the draw set to take place on Monday.
GROUP WINNERS POT
(includes four highest point-getters from Champions League’s third place teams)
- A: Valencia (Spain, 13 pts.)
- B: Ludogorets Raxgrad (Bulgaria, 16 pts.)
- C: Red Bull Salzburg (Austria, 18 pts.)
- D: Rubin Kazan (Russia, 14 pts.)
- E: Fiorentina (Italy, 16 pts.)
- F: Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany, 15 pts.)
- G: Genk (Belgium, 14 pts.)
- H: Sevilla (Spain, 12 pts.)
- I: Lyon (France, 12 pts.)
- J: Trabzonspor (Turkey, 14 pts.)
- K: Tottenham Hotspur (England, 18 pts.)
- L: AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands, 12 pts.)
- CL: Napoli (Italy, 12 pts.)
- CL: Benfica (Portugal, 10 pts.)
- CL: Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine, 8 pts.)
- CL: Basel (Switzerland, 8 pts.)
RUNNERS UP POT
(includes four lowest point-getters from Champions League’s third place teams)
- A: Swansea City (England, 8 pts.)
- B: Chornomorets Odesa (Ukraine, 10 pts.)
- C: Esbjerg (Denmark, 12 pts.)
- D: Maribor (Slovenia, 7 pts.)
- E: Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine, 12 pts.)
- F: Maccabu Tel Aviv (Israel, 11 pts.)
- G: Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine, 10 pts.)
- H: Solvan Liberac (Czech Republic, 9 pts.)
- I: Real Betis (Spain, 9 pts.)
- J: Lazio (Italy, 12 pts.)
- K: Anzhi Makhachkala (Russia, 8 pts.)
- L: PAOK (Greece, 12 pts.)
- CL: Ajax (Netherlands, 8 pts.)
- CL: Juventus (Italy, 6 pts.)
- CL: Porto (Portugal, 5 pts.)
- CL: Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic, 3 pts.)