Europa League Format

Since 2015/2016

Qualifying phase

Qualifying-phase matches are played according to the knockout system, with each club playing each opponent twice, in home and away matches. Clubs from the same association cannot be drawn against each other. The team which scores the greater aggregate of goals in the two matches qualifies for the next stage (second qualifying round, third qualifying round, fourth qualifying round or group stage, as applicable).

Group stage

Once the qualifying phase have been completed, the 48 remaining clubs are drawn into 12 groups of four. Clubs from the same association cannot be drawn into the same group. Each club plays one home and one away match against each other club in its group. Three points are awarded for a win, one point for a draw, and none for a defeat. If two or more teams are equal on points on completion of all the group matches, the following criteria are applied to determine the rankings (in descending order):

a) higher number of points obtained in the group matches played among the teams in question;
b) superior goal difference from the group matches played among the teams in question;

c) higher number of goals scored in the group matches played among the teams in question;
d) higher number of goals scored away from home in  the group matches played among the teams in question;
e) if, after having applied criteria a) to d), teams still have an equal ranking, criteria a) to d) are reapplied exclusively to the matches between the two teams in question to determine their final  rankings. If this procedure does not lead to a decision, criteria f) to l) apply;
f) superior goal difference from all group matches played;
g) higher number of goals scored from all group matches played;
h) higher number of away goals scored in all group matches;
i) higher number of wins in all group matches;
j) higher number of away wins in all group matches;
k) lower disciplinary points total based only on yellow and red cards received in all group matches (red card = 3 points, expulsion for two yellow cards in one match = 3 points, yellow card = 1 point);
l) higher club coefficient.

The 12 group-winners and the 12 runners-up from the group stage qualify for the round of 32. The clubs that finish this stage in third and fourth position in their group are eliminated.

Round of 32

The 24 clubs qualified from the group stage will be joined by the 8 clubs that finish the group stage of the UEFA Champions League in third position. The round of 32 pairings are determined by means of a draw. This round is played under the knockout system, on a home and away basis (two legs). The UEFA administration ensures that the following principles are respected.

a) Clubs from the same association cannot be drawn against each other.
b) The 12 UEFA Europa League group-winners and the 4 best third-ranked teams in the UEFA Champions League group stage are drawn against the 12 UEFA Europa League group runners-up and the remaining third-ranked teams in the UEFA Champions League group stage.

c) The winners and runners-up of the same group cannot be drawn against each other.
d) The UEFA Europa League group-winners and the four best third-ranked in the UEFA Champions League group stage play the return leg at home.

The team which scores the greater aggregate of goals in the two matches qualifies for the round of 16.

Round of 16

The 16 winners of the round of 32 contest the round of 16, for which the pairings are determined by means of a draw. The round of 16 is played under the knockout system, on a home-and-away basis (two legs). The team which scores the greater aggregate of goals in the two matches qualifies for the quarter-finals.

Quarter-finals

The eight winners of the round of 16 contest the quarter-finals, for which the pairings are determined by means of a draw. The quarter-finals are played under the knockout system, on a home-and-away basis (two legs). The team which scores the greater aggregate of goals in the two matches qualifies for the semi-finals.

Semi-finals

The four winners of the quarter-finals contest the semi-finals, for which the pairings are determined by means of a draw. The semi-finals are played under the knockout system, on a home-and-away basis (two legs). The team which scores the greater aggregate of goals in the two matches qualifies for the final.

Final

The final is played as one single match at a neutral venue. If the result stands as a draw at the end of normal playing time, extra time of two periods of 15 minutes is played. If one of the teams scores more goals than the other during extra time, that team is declared the winner. If the two teams are still equal after extra time, the winner is determined by kicks from the penalty mark.

Away goals and extra time under the knockout system

For matches played under the knockout system, if the two teams involved in a tie score the same number of goals over the two legs, the team which scores more away goals qualifies for the next stage. If this procedure does not produce a result, i.e. if both teams score the same number of goals at home and away, two 15-minute periods of extra time are played at the end of the second leg. If, during extra time, both teams score the same number of goals, away goals count double (i.e. the visiting club qualifies). If no goals are scored during extra time, kicks from the penalty mark determine which club qualifies for the next stage.

Seeding of clubs

The UEFA administration seeds clubs for the qualifying phase and the group stage, in accordance with the club coefficient rankings established at the beginning of the season and with the principles set by the Club Competitions Committee. If, for any unforeseen reason, any of the participants in such rounds are not known at the time of the draw, the coefficient of the club with the higher coefficient of the two clubs involved in an undecided tie will be used for the purposes of the draw. If the titleholder takes part in the group stage, it is always the top seed.

Ties

The ties are determined by means of a draw. The club drawn first plays the first leg of the tie at home. The UEFA administration may decide that a tie be played in one leg, if circumstances so require, and will set the principles for determining the winner accordingly.

Number of clubs per UEFA member association

In special circumstances, the winner of another official domestic competition may be entered for the UEFA Europa League instead of the lowest ranking top domestic league representative.

If the winner of the domestic cup qualifies for the UEFA Champions League or the UEFA Europa League via the domestic championship, the highest ranking non-qualified domestic championship club qualifies for the UEFA Europa League at the stage initially reserved for the lowest ranking top domestic championship representative. If the winner of the domestic cup qualifies for UEFA Champions League, the access stage initially reserved for the domestic cup winner is reserved for the club which finishes the domestic championship in the highest position out of all the clubs which qualify for the UEFA Europa League from the association concerned. In both cases each representative of the domestic championship then enters the competition at the stage initially reserved for the domestic championship representative ranked immediately above it

In addition:

a) Three clubs are admitted to the first qualifying round of the competition on the basis of  the UEFA Respect Fair Play Assessment.
b) The 15 clubs eliminated in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League are admitted to the play-offs for the UEFA Europa League.

c) The ten clubs eliminated in the play-offs for the UEFA Champions League are admitted to the group stage of the UEFA Europa League.
d) The eight clubs which finish the group stage of the UEFA Champions League in third place in their group are admitted to the UEFA Europa League round of 32.

Titleholder

The UEFA Europa League titleholder is admitted to start in the UEFA Champions League. If the UEFA Europa League titleholder qualifies for the UEFA Europa League through one of its domestic competitions, the number of places to which its association is entitled in the UEFA Europa League is decreased by one. The created vacancy is rebalanced accordingly and priority for the UEFA Europa League is given to the domestic cup winners (in accordance with the entry stage as per the access list).