What Happens When You Win The Europa League

The 3 Scenarios When Your Team Wins The Europa League

Last updated on October 15th, 2021

If your team wins the Europa League, they are given automatic entry to the Champions League Group Stage. However, they may have already qualified for the Champions League Group Stage based on their league position.

What happens in this case? Here is an explanation of how this extra Champions League spot is given out.

What happens when a team wins the Europa League?

The winner of the Europa League will be offered a guaranteed spot in next season’s UEFA Champions League, regardless of their league position. The team will also play in the UEFA Super Cup with the winner of this season’s Champions League.

Understanding the additional entry rule for the Europa League winners

There is a spot in the UCL group stages that is reserved for the Europa League winners. This automatic spot will be given to the team if they do not qualify for the UCL based on their league position.

However, things are different when your team has already qualified for the UCL via the domestic league.

The number of slots that each league gets depends on their UEFA coefficient. The greater the coefficient, the more teams automatically qualify for the group stages.

Here are the teams that qualified for the group stages from the different countries in the 2021-22 tournament:

Number of TeamsCountries
4England
Germany
Spain
Italy
3France
Portugal
2Russia
Netherlands

This shows the maximum number of Champions League slots that are allocated to each country’s top league. Apart from these slots, there are 2 slots that are reserved for the:

  1. Champions League winner
  2. Europa League winner

These 2 slots will only be activated if the club that wins either competition does not qualify for the Champions League based on their league position.

You can find out more about how this also affects the number of Premier League teams that can enter the Champions League.

What happens if a team wins the Europa League and gets Top 4?

When a team wins the Europa League but already qualified for the Champions League by virtue of the team’s league position, their automatic spot to the Group Stages is given up. This means that no additional teams from the same league will enter the Champions League.

This happened to Chelsea in 2018/19, when they both won the Europa League, and was 3rd place in the Premier League.

Chelsea already qualified for the Champions League because of their league position. As such, they did not need this automatic spot.

Furthermore, no extra slot was given to the 5th placed team in the Premier League.

As a result, only 4 teams from England participated in the 2019/20 Champions League.

What happens to that extra slot that is given to the Europa League winners?

If the Europa League winner has already qualified for the Champions League via their league position, the extra slot will be given to another team from another league.

For example, Atletico Madrid won the 2017/18 Europa League, but was in 2nd place in the La Liga. Their extra slot was given to the 3rd-placed team in the Ligue 1. This team entered the group stage immediately instead of having to play in the qualifying round.

You can view which teams qualify for the group stages from the Champions League access list released by UEFA.

Does 5th place get Champions League if 4th wins Europa League?

If the team in fourth place of the league wins the Europa League, they will be given an automatic Champions League spot. However, their slot due to being in 4th place will not be passed down to the team that is 5th place in the league.

Instead of the Champions League spot being passed down to the 5th place, it may be passed to a team in another league. This is because some of these teams from other countries do not automatically qualify for the Champions League.

For these teams, they will need to play in the qualifying rounds first before being able to make it into the group stages.

As such, an automatic qualifying spot may be given to the next highest team that does not have an automatic spot. As seen from the example in the 18/19 season, this slot was given to the team in third place in Ligue 1.

What happens if a team outside the Top 4 wins the Europa League?

When a team outside of the top 4 league positions wins the Europa League, they are given a Champions League spot even if they did not qualify from their league position. In this scenario, 5 teams from the same league will participate in the Champions League.

A team who wins the Europa League may not be in the top 4 positions to qualify for the Champions League spot. However, there is a slot in the Champions League that is already reserved for that team.

In this case, the team will still be able to play in the Champions League, even though they did not qualify based on their league position! 5 teams from the same country will play in the Champions League.

This happened in these scenarios below:

#1 Manchester United (2016/17)

In the 2016/17 Europa League final, Manchester United beat Ajax to win the competition.

However, in that same season, Manchester United were 6th place in the Premier League.

Since they were outside of the top 4, they would not be able to qualify for the Champions League based on their league position.

Nevertheless, a Champions League spot has already been reserved for the Europa League winners. Manchester United still managed to play in the Champions League because of this.

There were 5 English teams that played in the 2017/18 Champions League season:

  1. Chelsea
  2. Tottenham Hotspur
  3. Manchester City
  4. Manchester United
  5. Liverpool

#2 Villarreal (2020-21)

Villarreal were the Europa League 2020/21 champions, after beating Manchester United in the finals.

In the 2020/21 La Liga season, Villarreal was in seventh place. This meant that they did not qualify for the Champions League via their league position.

However, there is a slot in the Champions League that is reserved for the Europa League champions. As such, Villarreal could still play in the 2021/22 Champions League. 5 teams from La Liga entered the competition, including:

  1. Villarreal
  2. Atletico Madrid
  3. Real Madrid
  4. Barcelona
  5. Sevilla

There can only be a maximum of 5 teams from the same country in the Champions League

Here is a very unlikely scenario that may happen:

Team 1 wins the Champions League, and Team 2 wins the Europa League.

Both Team 1 and 2 are from the same league, but both of them are outside of the top 4.

However, in this case, the 4th placed team in the league will play in the Europa League instead of the Champions League. This is because there can only be a maximum of 5 teams from the same country in the Champions League.

What happens if a team wins the Europa League and gets relegated?

When a team wins the Europa League but gets relegated, they are still eligible to play in the Champions League and the UEFA Super Cup. However, there may be fixture congestion as the relegated team may need to play more league matches in the second tier competition.

The Champions League spot is already guaranteed to the Europa League winner. Even if they get relegated, they will still be able to play in both the:

  1. Champions League
  2. UEFA Super Cup

However, this scenario is very unlikely to happen, and it has not happened before!

A similar scenario happened to Wigan Athletic. Wigan qualified for the Europa League by winning the 2012/13 FA Cup, but they were relegated from the Premier League.

In the 2013/14 season, Wigan’s fixtures were really congested. This is because they had to play 46 games in the Championship, as well as the Europa League group stage fixtures!

Due to this fixture congestion, Wigan were eventually eliminated from the group stages.

While this scenario is not the same as winning the Europa League and getting relegated, it does show what might happen if this scenario occurs.

Do the runners-up of the Europa League qualify for the Champions League?

Only the winners of the Europa League will be able to qualify for the Champions League, and not the runners-up that lost the final. However, it is still possible for the runners-up of the Europa League to qualify for the Champions League by virtue of their league position.

The runners-up of the Europa League will not be able to qualify for the Champions League based on their performance in this competition.

Depending on where they finished in their respective league’s table, it is still possible for them to qualify for the Champions League.

This happened in the 2020/21 Europa League, where Manchester United were the runners-up for the competition. Villarreal qualified for the Champions League as they won the competition.

However, Manchester United finished 2nd place in the 2020/21 Premier League.

This meant that they still qualified for the Champions League by virtue of their league position!

Conclusion

When you win the Europa League, you are guaranteed a slot in next season’s Champions League. It does not matter which position you are in the league!

However, if you’ve already qualified for the Champions League via your league position, this slot will be given to a club from another country.

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