Move over, Champions and Europa Leagues, there’s a new European club competition coming to the continent in 2021.
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UEL2 — it’s a “working title” — has been rumored for a some time now, and was formally approved and announced by UEFA at the confederation’s competition meetings in Dublin on Sunday.
Just like the Champions League, 32 teams will compete in the group stage with 16 advancing to the knockout rounds. An additional knockout round will be played prior to the round of 16, featuring matchups of second-place teams and third-place Europa League sides dropping down into the UEL2 — not to dissimilar to the UCL-to-UEL, in order to create even more fixtures.
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Winners of the UEL2 will book their place in the UEL for the following season, a la Europa League winners qualifying for the UCL. No further changes will be made to the format or operation of the UCL or UEL.
Games will be played on Thursdays, alongside the UEL, with an additional time slot to be created, in order to put more of the games on television and secure a more lucrative TV contract.
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The idea is that more continental competitions featuring more teams will be better for mid-table sides around Europe, as they’re able to get in on the European action, when in reality it will merely cause the fixture list to pile up ever so quickly for those very mid-table teams.
In the end, the UEL2 will only widen the gap between the haves and have-nots within their domestic leagues. Take the Premier League for example, where the Manchester and London giants have the financial wherewithal — thanks to UCL TV and prize monies — to sign an extra $100 million worth of players to sustain simultaneous competition across four fronts. UEL sides — the annual non-top-six entrants, at least — already aren’t able to do the same, because the money simply isn’t there. Now, imagine how much more stress the UEL2 will put on teams 8 through 10.