2012/13 Europa League – Format and Seeding

This season’s final will be played at the Amsterdam ArenA.

The list of entrants for next season’s Europa League is now complete, and it is therefore possible to work out the potential seedings for each round.


The format of the Europa League is tweaked slightly every season, and that has been the case yet again this year, with the highest ranked teams from the top 6 countries now earning a direct spot in the group stage alongside the holders.  In total, 161 clubs will enter this season’s Europa League, and they will also be joined by 32 clubs who drop down from the Champions League at various stages, taking the total number of participants to a staggering 193 teams.

Most countries are entitled to 3 entrants in this season’s Europa League.  The only exceptions are the nations ranked 7th-9th (Russia, Ukraine and the Netherlands), who have 4 entrants*, the two bottom ranked nations (Andorra & San Marino) who have 2 entrants, and Liechtenstein who only have 1 entrant (cup winners) on account of having no league.  There are also extra places available to the top 3 nations in UEFA’s Fair Play league which this season went to Netherlands (FC Twente), Norway (Stabaek) & Finland (MyPa).  Clubs from the same country cannot face each other in any of the qualifying rounds.

The stages at which these teams enter at depend on their country’s position in the UEFA country coefficient rankings.  This is too detailed to go into here, but if you are interested then look at the table provided by Bert Kassies.  For each country, the national cup winners are given preference ahead of clubs who qualified through the league (which is why Hearts enter the tournament later than Dundee United).  This is driven by Michel Platini’s desire to reward teams who have actually won something in the preceeding season.

The flowchart below tries to make some sense of the pathway through the qualifying stages.


The seeding in both the Champions League and Europa League is based on the UEFA club coefficients, which are based on results in European competition over the past 5 years.  Clubs which have not participated in Europe over that period are given a score based on their nation’s coefficient.

All the seeding information is taken from Bert Kassies’ website, which is a treasure trove of statistics and ranking information.

1st Qualifying Round

Draw: 25th June
Matches – 5th July and 12th July

74 teams enter the Europa League at this stage, which kicks off 4 days after the final of Euro 2012.  FC Twente, Lech Poznan, Elfsborg all enter at this round, and all have players at Euro 2012.  In theory these players could take part in the Euro 2012 final and then be expected to start their 2012/13 season a matter of days later.

The teams taking part, and their seedings, are listed below.

2nd Qualifying Round

Draw: 25th June
Matches – 19th July and 26th July

43 teams, including St Johnstone, enter at this stage, and are joined by the 37 winners from the previous round.

The draws for the 1st and 2nd Qualifying Rounds are carried out at the same time (25th June), which means that 37 entrants will be unknown at the time of the draw.   UEFA work around this by assuming that the seeded team will win each tie in the previous round.  That means that St Johnstone are guaranteed to be unseeded for this round.  They are ranked 42nd of the 80 teams who are predicted to take part, which means they miss out on being seeded by 2 places.  Had the draw been held separately from the 1st Qualifying Round, they could have been seeded if 2 of the 10 teams ranked above them lost in the previous round.

The list below shows the seeding for the 2nd Qualifying Round.  The teams listed in white and italics are the seeded teams from the 1st Qualifying Round ties, whose seeding is used in the draw.  If these teams lose in the 1st Qualifying Round, they would be replaced by the team who beat them.

3rd Qualifying Round

Draw: 20th July
Matches – 2nd August and 9th August

18 teams, including Dundee United, enter at this stage, and are joined by the 40 winners from the previous round.

The draw for this stage takes place between the 1st and 2nd legs of the 2nd Qualifying Round, so none of the other 40 entrants will be confirmed at the time of the draw.  Again, for the purposes of the draw UEFA assume that the seeded teams from the 2nd Qualifying Round will win.

Dundee United are ranked 41st of the 58 teams who are expected to be in this round.  The only teams ranked above them who could potentially be eliminated before the draw are those who enter at the 1st Qualifying Round, and there are only 5 such teams.  That means that Dundee United could at best be 36th out of 58 by the time of the draw, and are therefore guaranteed to be unseeded.

Curiously, St Johnstone could end up “seeded” in this round if they were to beat one of the higher ranked seeds from the previous round.  They would then take the place, and the seeding of that team in the 3rd Qualifying Round because the draw is made before the 2nd Qualifying Round is complete.

The list below is only an indication of the potential seedings – it could still change if any of the seeded teams lose in the 1st Qualifying Round.  The teams in white are not guaranteed to reach this stage, and could be replaced by their opponents from the 2nd Qualifying Round.

Play-off Round

Draw: 10th August
Matches – 23rd August and 30th August

19 teams, including Hearts, will enter at this round, and are joined by the 29 winners from the previous round, and the 14 losers from the Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round.

This round is drawn after the previous round is completed, so the seedings will only be known at that stage.  The table below is merely speculative, and assumes that every single seeded side wins in the previous round, and that every single unseeded team loses in the Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round.

Hearts will almost certainly be unseeded – they would need somewhere in the region of 25 unseeded teams to win in the previous round to have any chance of being seeded.  The same would apply to Motherwell if they were to lose their Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round match.  If Celtic were to lose in the Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round, they would definitely be seeded at this stage.

Again, with so many matches to be played before these seedings are decided, it is difficult to be anything more than speculative at this stage.  The table below shows what the seeding would look like if every single seeded team won in each of the previous rounds, and every unseeded team lost in the Champions League.  The teams who would drop down from the Champions League are coloured in blue.

The 31 winners from this round will enter the group stage, where they will join holders Atletico Madrid plus Tottenham, Bayer Leverkusen, Napoli, Lyon, Rubin Kazan and Academica, as well as the 10 losers from the Champions League Play-off Round.

About SPLstats
Providing statistics and trivia about Scottish football. Main focus is the SPL, but all Scottish football will be covered. Not affiliated to the SPL.

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