The UEFA Europa League is the 2nd most prestigious club tournament in Europe. The tournament has been organized by UEFA since 1971. It was originally called the UEFA Cup but has been known as the UEFA Europa League since 2009/10 although UEFA considers them and its titles, appearances, records, etc. as the same competition.
The UEFA Europa League is played on a Wednesday in May, 10 days before the UEFA Champions League final. The winner of the tournament qualifies for the following season’s UEFA Champions League. They also play the Champions League winner in the annual UEFA Super Cup before the start of the European season.
The2009/10 re-branding expanded the format with an expanded group stage as well as updating the qualifying criteria.
The format is similar in structure to the UEFA Champions League with a qualifying round for lower seeded qualifiers, a group stage consisting of 12 groups of 4 teams each, and an elimination round. Teams play every other team in the group home and away with the top 2 teams from each group advance to the elimination round and are joined by the 3rd place finishers from the Champions League in the Round of 32. The group stage is played from September through December.
The ties for the Round of 32 are determined through a draw where the 12 group winners and the four 3rd place finishers with the best record from the Champions League are drawn against the 2nd place finishers from the group stage and the other four 3rd place teams from the Champions League. Teams from the same group of association (ie country) can not be drawn together. There are no seeds or restrictions with the draws from the Round of 16 onwards.
The elimination round feature home and away ties with the winning team advancing. The Away Goals Rule is applied if teams are tied on aggregate after the 2 matches. The Elimination Round starts in February and runs through May.
Teams qualify for the UEFA Europa League as winners of domestic cups and through their domestic league finish. The number of teams that qualify from each country depend on the UEFA coefficient.
The winner of the UEFA Europa League is awarded the UEFA Cup, also known as the Coupe UEFA. The official trophy is held at all times by UEFA. The winning team holds a full-size replica trophy at their club while they are champions. The trophy was designed by Bertoni prior to the 1972 UEFA Cup Final. The silver trophy sits on a yellow marble plinth and weighs 33 lbs.
The UEFA Europa League anthem was updated ahead of the 2015/16 competition. The new anthem which fans hear before every match at the stadium and on TV broadcasts was composed by Michael Kadelbach.