Where They Stand: Europa League’s 32 knockout round teams (and their potential effect on UEFA’s coefficients)

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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 violaSerie 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.

(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.)

(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.)

LINEUPS: Tim Howard starts for USMNT against Costa Rica

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JULY 01:  Tim Howard of the United States gestures during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Belgium and the United States at Arena Fonte Nova on July 1, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
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The United States takes on Costa Rica in a friendly tonight at Red Bull Arena, as the USMNT must put the Mexico match behind them and focus on the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

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The biggest inclusion in tonight’s starting XI is that of Tim Howard in goal, marking his return to the national side after taking a self-imposed sabbatical. It will be Howard’s first appearance for the USMNT since his legendary performance against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup.

Klinsmann has chosen to go with a 4-4-2 tonight, and Geoff Cameron remains the only starter in the back-line from the Mexico match. He’ll partner with Michael Orozco in the center of defense, with Brad Evans and Tim Ream on the outsides.

[ MORE: Fabian Johnson sent home from USMNT after fall-out with Klinsmann ]

In the midfield, Klinsmann has put some speed on the wings through the likes of DeAndre Yedlin and recent call-up Brek Shea. Danny Williams joins Jermaine Jones as the central midfielders.

Up top, Jozy Altidore will play alongside Gyasi Zardes, who returns to his more comfortable position as forward.

Cristiano Ronaldo wins record fourth European Golden Boot

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 13:  Real Madrid football player Cristiano Ronaldo poses with his four Golden Boot Awards as maximun goal scorer of European leagues at The Westin Palace Hotel on October 13, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Cristiano Ronaldo has added another trophy to the collection, winning his fourth Golden Boot as Europe’s top scorer for the 2014-15 season.

The award accounts for goals in league play only, which means the Champions League and domestic tournaments are not included. In La Liga, Ronaldo scored 48 goals in 35 appearances.

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Ronaldo first won the award after the 2007-08 season with Manchester United, and has now added three more with Real Madrid in 2010-11, 2013-14, and 2014-15.

With his fourth win, Ronaldo moves ahead of Lionel Messi as the only player to win the award four times. Messi has won three, while eight players have won two.

Below is a post from Ronaldo’s Facebook page reflecting on the award:

What a special moment in my professional life!

Winning four Golden Boots is a privilege for me and I’ll keep challenging myself because I want to do better every time and I want to keep chasing for more records.

I have to thank everyone in Real Madrid that made this possible and we want to keep winning more titles and more trophies. Thank you everyone.

Ronaldo alone scored more goals in La Liga play last season than 14 clubs did, which shows how prolific his season was. The only player to score more than 48 league goals in a European season was Messi, who scored 50 in 2011-12.

[ EURO 2016: A look at the 20 teams that have qualified for France ]

While it was a successful year for Ronaldo personally, it was a very disappointing campaign for Real Madrid, who fired manager Carlo Ancelotti after finishing the season without a trophy.