The decision announced at UEFA’s meeting held in Dublin was down to “widespread demand” and opens the door to more clubs from further associations to play European football, starting in three years’ time to coincide with the 2021-2024 cycle.
UEFA revealed that the ‘Europa League 2’ – at this stage a working title – will take place on Thursdays alongside the current UEFA Europa League, and will feature 32 teams in a group stage, as it does in the existing two European club competitions.
The new competition will comprise 141 matches over 15 match weeks, starting with eight groups of four teams, followed by a round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final. The ultimate winner of the tournament will earn a direct route into the UEFA Europa League the following campaign.
‘UEL2’ will ensure that at least 34 countries will be represented in the group stages of the UEFA club competitions, eight more than the minimum guaranteed today.
"There was a widespread demand by all clubs to increase their chances of participating more regularly in European competition. This has been achieved with a strategic approach, and in accordance with UEFA's objective of having both more quality and more inclusivity in our club competitions."
Whilst the arrival of a third competition won’t affect the UEFA Champions League, it will have ramifications for the Europa League, which will be halved in size to 32 teams by the 2021/22 season, with an extra play-off round between the group stage and last 16.
Further details regarding the third competition are to be finalised during 2019, when a name/brand will be unveiled, as well as revenue distribution, coefficient system and commercial strategy.
UEFA will leave it to individual associations in the continent to decide the criteria for earning a spot for the tournament, whether through league placing or a domestic cup.