Sometimes it’s a bit tricky to follow all the different leagues and competitions in the world of football. On more than one occasion I’ve seen football fans explain to non-football fans that the Champions League and the Europa League are, in fact, two different things which, in turn, have little to do with the Premier League. Here are the differences between the Champions League and the Europa League, to settle the debate once and for all.
Champions League is On A Higher Level
While both competitions are for European teams, the Champions League is the top competition for the European teams. This means that the best of the best get to compete, with the other European teams getting a shot at entering the competition while fighting each other.
The Europa League is one tier lower. There is one more competition in the third tier, the UEFA Europa Conference League. Teams qualify for the Europa League based on their performance in national cups and leagues.
Number of Teams
As the Champions League is the competition between the elite European clubs, it stands to reason that they should have the fewest teams among similar competitions. There are 32 teams competing for the title in the group stage. However, before the group stage, there are several qualifying stages and 79 entries on the list. The Europa League has 48 teams in the group stage, but 160 total.
Obviously, for the reasons mentioned above, it is easier to qualify for the Europa League than it is to get into the Champions League. If a team happens to be qualified for both, then the Champions League takes precedence. The team does not enter the Europa League and a new lucky team enters the lower-tiered competition.
The Champions League starts with a preliminary round, followed by three qualifying rounds. These qualifying rounds are divided into the Champions Path and the League Path.
After that, there is the playoff round. This round decides the 4 Champions Path winners and 2 League Path winners that get to enter the group stage. There, they face off against the previous winner of the Europa League and the Champions League.
The qualification is set up in a way that allows the teams with great performance to fight against the best in the league.
What Are These Paths?
The higher the team is rated based on their performance in the national cups and leagues, the later they come into the qualifiers. After the preliminaries and the first qualifying round, the teams get divided into two paths: the Champions Path and the League Path. The Champions Path is for the domestic titleholders, while the League Path is for teams that managed to get a spot behind the champions.
What Happens to the Losers?
It’s not all lost for those that drop out of the Champions League. Based on their performance, they may get a spot in the Europa League, which means that they still have a chance to win and compete in the group stage of the coveted Champions League.