The journey that will be the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League begins for Tottenham Hotspur on Monday as the play-off round draw commences.
There are a number of things about the Conference League that make it unique from UEFA’s other continental competitions. One of the biggest is the fact that no teams qualify directly for the Group Stage. Whereas the top four from last season’s Premier League are all qualified fully for the Champions League Grop stage, much like last season, Tottenham still needs to fully qualify for European competition. That qualification journey – as short as it may be – begins on Monday with the play-off draw.
The Conference League Play-off draw
The draw on Monday pairs teams in the final set of matches prior to the inaugural Conference League Group Stage. There are technically still two paths to the group stage. There is the Champions path, which includes teams who have been eliminated from Europa League qualifying at different points and have fallen into this path.
At this point, there are 20 teams who are vying for only five spots via the Champion’s path. 10 of those teams are already part of the Conference League qualifying, with the five third qualifying round winners to play five teams that lose in the Europa League third-round qualifying. Those five subsequent winners will be joined by a further 10 teams who fall out of the Europa League at the play-off stage for almost half (15) of the 32 teams in the group stage. The Spurs are part of the group that will make up the other 17 teams in the group stage.
Tottenham need to qualify from the main path
Tottenham Hotspur is part of the main path, which consists of 34 teams. Tottenham is one of four teams that entered the competition at this stage. FC Union Berlin, Stade Rennais, and Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma were the other three teams to enter at this stage of the competition.
Those four teams are joined by three that come from the Europa League third-round qualifying main path and 27 who advance from the third-round qualifying of the Conference League main path. Those 34 teams were then split into four groups – three groups of eight and one group of ten. Each team in each group is assigned a number – with 1-4 being seeded and 5-8 unseeded.
Although many of the matches to determine exactly who will advance or not from the third-round qualifying need to occur, the number assignments for the draw have already commenced. Tottenham Hotspur was put into Group 1 – an eight-team pod – and was assigned number four.
Knowing their number, on Monday, the numbers will be drawn with Tottenham facing the winner of one of the matches number 5-8 in Group 1. If Spurs are paired with #5, they will play the winner of PFC CSKA-Sofia (BUL) – NK Osijek (CRO). Being drawn with #6 will leave the Lilywhites hosting the winner of FC Paços de Ferreira (POR) – Larne FC (NIR). The #7 means Spurs face the winner of Breidablik (ISL) – Aberdeen FC (SCO). Finally, if Tottenham is paired with the #8 they face the winner of FK Čukarički (SRB) – Hammarby Fotboll (SWE).
What is most interesting for those teams who could potentially face Tottenham, is they still have to win two games to even get that trip to London, as the third qualifying round does not get underway until Tuesday, August 3, the day after the draw.
A Play-off round means early fixture congestion for Tottenham
The draw on Monday will be all well and good and following the second-leg of the third-round qualifying, Tottenham will finally know who they are going to play. The bigger deal is when those matches commence.
The Play-off to qualify for the Group Stage of the Conference League is a two-legged affair to be played on August 19 and 26. Tottenham begins the Premier League season just four days prior to the first play-off match and then plays again just three days later.
With the two games added to the early schedule, Tottenham will actually play five matches over 14 days in August between the 15-29. These will be big games for Tottenham on both fronts. Manchester City, Wolves, and Watford is a crucial start for a lot of reasons, and reaching the UEFA Europa Conference League proper and frankly winning the entire competition should certainly be a team goal for the season.
How Tottenham prepares now will help determine how successful they will be then. With the draw and the process starting on Monday, there is no time for Tottenham to lose.