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The UEFA Europa League is a second tier league that is played between clubs from different countries in Europe. It is second only to the Champions League, and the two tournaments are closely tied together.

Winning the Europa League gives a club an automatic berth to the Champions League in the following season, which not only makes it valuable to any of the bigger teams playing in the tournament, but it also gives the opportunity to teams that would otherwise have little chance of qualifying for the top tier league. Furthermore, the structure means that there is never a defending champion in the league, and the teams playing in the Europa League change far more often than the Champions League, making it a more diverse tournament.


The Europa League was initially called the UEFA Cup, and was launched in 1971. It was considered a third tier European competition, behind the European Cup (the original Champions League) and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup, a now defunct tournament where the winners of the domestic cups in the different European countries played against each other.

In the original structure, the finals were played over two legs, with the teams playing both home and away. The first final was between Tottenham and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Spurs won the first game at home 2-1 and then drew with Wolves 1-1 in the game away to become the first champions of the new European tournament. In the following year, Liverpool became the second English football club to win the UEFA Cup, beating Borussia Monchengladbach 3-0 at home and then losing 0-2 away.

Spurs made the finals again in 1974, but were beaten by the Netherlands' Feyenoord 2-2 and 2-0. Borussia Monchengladbach returned to the finals the following year and beat Twente, another Dutch club, to become the first German team to win the UEFA Super Cup.

Liverpool won the 1976 UEFA Super Cup, and this was only the start of their fantastic run in Europe, as they went on to win their first European Cup the following year, and win the top tier competition again in the year after that.

Juventus became the first Italian team to win the UEFA Super Cup when they beat Athletico Bilbao in the 1977 finals. The first leg that was played in Turn hosted a crowd of 75,000, which was more than the 57,000 people who turned up to the European Cup finals. This started to show clubs that the UEFA Super Cup was not merely a third tier competition for lower ranking teams, but it could potentially bring tens of thousands of fans and was highly competitive in its own right.

The following year, Borussia Monchengladbach won the competition again, and then in 1980 they reached the finals but were defeated by fellow West German team Eintracht Frankfurt.

The new decade began with Ipswich Town winning the UEFA Super Cup, beating AZ Alkmaar in two exciting matches that ended with an aggregate score of 5-4 to the English side. In 1982, another surprise came, when a Swedish club called IFK Goteborg won the competition, beating Hamburger SV in the finals.

Anderlecht won the tournament in 1983, becoming the first Belgian team to lift a European trophy. They reached the finals in the following year but were beaten by Spurs, who ended their 13-year European trophy drought.

In the following two years, Real Madrid won the competition twice in a row. IFK Goteborg won their second UEFA Super Cup in 1987, and Bayer Leverkusen won their first in 1988.

Over the following seven years, 4 Italian teams won the competition and 1 Dutch team won. Napoli, captained by Diego Maradona, won their first and only European trophy in 1989. The following two years saw two all-Italian finals, where Juventus beat Fiorentina and Inter Milan beat Roma. In 1992, Ajax beat Torino, becoming the third Dutch team to win the tournament.

Juventus, Inter Milan and Parma won the competition in the next three years, and then Bayern Munich won their first Super Cup in 1996, and Schalke 04 won theirs in 1997.

After the 1997 finals, the governing body of the UEFA Super Cup decided to scrap the two-legged finals for a single match format, the same as the European Cup (which was rebranded in 1992 to the Champions League).

The first final in the new format was an all-Italian match between Inter Milan and Lazio, played in the Parc des Princes in Paris. Inter Milan won the game and their third Super Cup trophy. Parma won their second title the next year, defeating Marseille in the final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Russia.

In 2000, Galatasaray won the competition after beating Arsenal in the finals, becoming the first Turkish team to win. Liverpool and Feyenoord won in the following two years, breaking a 25-year gap between Liverpool's last win and a 28-year gap between Feyenoord's last win.

Porto became the first Portuguese team to win a UEFA Super Cup when they won the competition in 2003. The team qualified for the Champions League the following year and went on to win that tournament as well. In 2004, Valencia won the competition, and the following year CSKA Moscow became the first Russian club to win a European trophy.

Shakhtar Donetsk won the tournament in the following year, becoming the first Ukrainian winners in the competition. Atletico Madrid won the competition in the following year, which was the last before the UEFA Super Cup was rebranded to the UEFA Europa League.

Chelsea won in 2013, and were followed by Sevilla who won it for an unprecedented three successive years. Manchester United won the competition in 2017, and were followed by Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Sevilla, Villareal, and most recently Eintracht Frankfurt in 2022.

Season Structure

The Europa League is almost identical to the Champions League in structure, only there are 48 teams in the group stage as opposed to 32, and there is an extra round where the teams placed third in the group stage in the Champions League play each other for a place in the Europa League knockout stage.

Apart from that, the concept is the same, with groups of 4 and each team playing two legged robin rounds against the teams in their group. Once the group stage is over and the third placed teams from the Champions League play their playoff, the remaining teams go into the round of the last 16, and play two legged fixtures until the finals.

Fun Facts

Diego Maradona never won a Champions League trophy, but he did guide Napoli to a Europa League trophy in 1989.

RCD Espanyol did not lose a single game in the 2007 season but did not win the competition. They lost to Sevilla in the finals on penalties.

Unai Emery has won the Europa League 4 times as a manager, the most in the history of the competition. He won three times with Sevilla from 2014 to 2016, and once more with Villareal in 2021.

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