Pending an official approval from the UEFA Executive Committee on the 3rd of December, European football will once again be played on a third different club competition. The top administrative body for association football, in collaboration with the European Club Association (ECA) have lately been finalizing all the format and access list details for the 2021-24 European football and all the changes are set to be officially presented to the fans.
The most important one is the addition of a third club competition, more than two decades after the Cup Winner's Cup has been abandoned. No club will qualify directly to the group stage, which will consist of 8 groups. The new euro-football structure will also bring changes to the Europa League format as a consequence of the implementation of the third competition, reducing the group stage participants by 12 clubs. Starting from season 2021-22, all three European club competition group stages will consist of 32 teams divided in groups of 4.
The changes will also affect the qualification process for the knock-out stages. Although no change will be made to the Champions League knock-out rounds, meaning that top two seeded clubs in each group will qualify for the round of 16, the third-placed club will not directly qualify for the next Europa League knock-out round. Instead, the 8 third-placed clubs from Champions League group stage, will be facing the 8 Europa League group runners-up on a two game play-off round. Winners will be continuing to the round of 16 along with the 8 Europa League group winners. Exactly the same applies for the Europa League third-placed clubs and the 8 runners-up from the third competition group stage. An extra play-off round will be deciding which 8 clubs will be following the 8 group winners in the round of 16.
The key features of the new European football structure can be summarised as follows:
- Clubs from at least 34 association will be represented in a group stage on three different competitions. Domestic champions will be prioritized via dedicated qualification paths. Winners from Europa League and ''Europa 2'' will promoted up for the following season.
- Although not direclty, there will be ''feeding'' both from Champions League group stage to Europa League knock-out rounds and from Europa League group stage to the new competition knock-outs.
- All three European football competitions' group stages will consist of 32 teams each. No club will directly qualify for the ''third level'' competition group stage.
- New Europa League qualification format will also provide direct group stage to 11 domestic champions.