Europa League vs La Liga

La Liga vs Europa League – What’s The Difference?

Last updated on September 11th, 2022

If you have been following Spanish football, you may have realised that your team is playing in both La Liga and the Europa League.

What are the differences between these 2 competitions?

Here’s what you need to know:

The difference between La Liga and Europa League

La Liga is a double round-robin competition for the top 20 Spanish clubs during the football calendar. Meanwhile, the Europa League consists of a group stage and a knockout round and involves the top 32 clubs that do not qualify for the Champions League.

Here is a comparison between these 2 competitions:

Number of teams involved

La Liga is the top division of Spanish football, and it consists of the top 20 clubs in Spain.

Meanwhile, the Europa League contains 32 teams from European football. These teams are usually those who do not make it to the Champions League.

However, this only measures the number of teams in the main competition. There will be quite a few teams that were involved in the qualifying rounds which do not make the cut.

Origin of teams

La Liga only contains Spanish teams that are Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).

Meanwhile, the Europa League consists of the top teams that come from the different UEFA countries. Currently, there are 55 member countries that are in UEFA.

To qualify for the Europa League, your team has to originate from a member country of UEFA. Otherwise, you will have to play in the continental competition where your country is from.

The Europa League will contain a lot of teams that you may not have heard of, as these are usually the teams that are not the champions of their respective domestic leagues.

Some teams you may not have heard of include:

of Origin
Sturm GrazAustria
Ludogorets RazgradHungary

There is definitely a wider variety of teams that are found in the Europa League, as they may not come from the top leagues in football including:

  1. Premier League
  2. La Liga
  3. Bundesliga
  4. Serie A
  5. Ligue 1

Frequency and duration of competition

Both competitions occur on a yearly basis, as part of the club football calendar. La Liga starts in August, which is the same as most other top leagues in Europe. The last match will be played in May.

La Liga matches are played almost every week, apart from international friendlies and weekends reserved for cup competitions.

Meanwhile, the Europa League usually runs the span of around 10 months, between July to May. The first few matches in July are the qualifying rounds.

The group stages will only start in September, one month after the European football season has started.

Format of competition

Meanwhile, La Liga follows a double round-robin league format. Each team will play against the other 19 clubs in the league.

For the Europa League, it consists of a group stage, and then a knockout round.

The top 2 teams from each group will progress onto the knockout round of the Europa League.

Meanwhile, the 3rd team in the group stages will participate in knockout round qualification in the Europa Conference League.

If you’re wondering what happens if the top teams have the same points in the group stages, you can check out this article to find out more.

During the knockout rounds of the Europa League, it is similar to that of the FA Cup. Once you lose a round, you will no longer be able to participate in the tournament.

This makes the stakes for each match really high!

For La Liga, consistency is more important. However for the Europa League, it is crucial for you team to be able to perform when required!

Number of matches played

If your team is in La Liga, they will play 38 matches. This is because your team will play against the other 19 clubs in the league, both home and away.

For the Europa League, the number of matches your team plays depends on how far they go into the competition.

Here are the number of matches your team will play in total if they reach the final from the Group Stages:

of Matches
Group Stages6
Round of 162

As such, the maximum number of matches that your team can play in the Europa League is 13. If your team gets knocked out in the earlier stages, they will play fewer matches.

However, if your team is in second place in a Europa League group, they will need to play a qualification round for the round of 16 against the third-placed team in the Champions League. This means that your team will play 2 extra games, leading to a total of 15 games.

Squad size

When you are registering a squad in the Europa League, you are able to register 2 lists.

The first list (List A) has a maximum of 25 players, where 8 of them have to be homegrown players. Meanwhile, the second list (List B) consists of players who are born on or after 1 Jan 1995 as well as other requirements.

There can be an unlimited number of players who are registered on List B.

You can read more about the ‘homegrown’ rule in Europa League and other competitions in my guide here.

Meanwhile, La Liga has a slightly smaller squad size at 23.

Qualification for competition

To qualify for La Liga, your team will need to be in the top 20 football teams in the Spanish football pyramid. If they are starting at the bottom of the pyramid, they will need to get promoted to the different tiers, and ultimately reach La Liga.

The top 2 teams of the Segunda División (tier 2 of Spanish football) will automatically qualify for La Liga. The third promotion spot will be decided in the promotion play-offs, where the 3rd-6th placed teams will compete in this mini-competition.

However, you may want to note that ‘B’ teams can’t be promoted to La Liga if their senior team is already in the league!

In the Europa League, there are 3 ways that you can qualify for the competition:

Europa League
League positionHighest league position that
does not qualify for Champions League
Cup winnersYes
Previous season’s winnerEuropa Conference
League winners

If you win certain cup competitions such as the FA Cup or Copa del Rey, you will qualify for the Europa League if you had not already qualified for the Champions League.

Loan player rules

For both La Liga and the Europa League, there are no rules that mention that loan players cannot play against their parent clubs.

You can read more about the loan players rules in the different leagues with my guide.

Rewards for winning competition

Here are the rewards your team will receive when they win either competition:

La LigaEuropa League
Prize MoneyHigherLower
Qualification for next
season’s Champions League
for Super Cup
de España
UEFA Super Cup

When comparing the 2020/21 prize money that the winners received in La Liga and the Europa League, La Liga winners received much more (€158 million vs €9 million).

Furthermore, the winners of both La Liga and the Europa League will be guaranteed automatic qualification to the UEFA Champions League group stages.

In terms of the Super Cup competitions that they play, the champions of La Liga will play against the Copa del Rey winners in the Supercopa de España.

Meanwhile, the Champions League winners will play against the Europa League winners in the UEFA Super Cup.


Here is a summary of the comparison between La Liga and the Europa League:

La LigaEuropa League
Number of teams involved2032
Origin of teamsSpanish teamsUEFA countries
Frequency of competitionAnnuallyAnnually
Duration of competition9 months10 months
Format of
Group Stage
+ Knockout
Number of
matches played
38Up to 15
Squad size2325 + List B
for competition
Top 2 teams from
Segunda División

Playoffs between
3rd to 6th place
Highest league position that
does not qualify for Champions League

Cup winners

Europa Conference League winners
Loan player rulesCan play
against parent club
Can play
against parent club
Prize moneyHigherLower
Champions LeagueChampions League
Super CupSupercopa
de España
UEFA Super Cup


Both La Liga and the Europa League are important football competitions that happen during the season.

La Liga will allow you to enjoy domestic football, while the Europa League may be more entertaining as the teams in the competition are some of the best in Europe!

You can find out whether the Europa League can be considered a major trophy here.

If you’re looking to buy the latest football merchandise from your favourite club, you can check out the latest deals at Kitbag.

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