The group stage of the UEFA Europa Conference League, the third-tier of European club competitions, is done and dusted. While one match remains un-played, Tottenham’s match with Rennes which was postponed due to a COVID outbreak at Spurs will not occur. When that issue is resolved, Spurs who had to win to secure a spot in the knockout play-offs will likely cede that to Vitesse, who beat NS Mura on Thursday.
The slightly uncertain outcome of that cancelled match won’t stop us from Monday’s 8 a.m. ET draw on Paramount+ and CBS Sports HQ as the eight pairings will be announced for the knockout play-offs. We’ll break down how the knockout stage format works for this inaugural competition below.
The top-two finishers from eight groups (16 teams) will join the third-place finishers from the UEFA Europa League (eight teams) to make up the field for the knockout stage ahead of Monday’s draw from Nyon, Switzerland.
The eight group winners receive a bye into the next round and won’t start their knockout stage journey until the round of 16, which leaves us with 16 teams battling for the eight remaining spot in the knockout play-offs. The UECL group runners-up and the UEL third-place finishers will be paired in the knockout play-offs, which will narrow the field down from 24 to 16 by the end of February.
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How to watch Conference League draw
Europa Conference League knockout stage participants
UECL group winners (through to round of 16):
- Group A: LASK (AUT)
- Group B: Gent (BEL)
- Group C: Roma (ITA)
- Group D: AZ Alkmaar (NED)
- Group E: Feyenoord (NED)
- Group F: Copenhagen (DEN)
- Group G: Rennes (FRA)
- Group H: Basel (SUI)
UECL group runners-up (seeded in knockout play-offs):
- Group A: Maccabi Tel-Aviv (ISR)
- Group B: Partizan (SRB)
- Group C: Bodo/Glimt (NOR)
- Group D: Randers (DEN)
- Group E: Slavia Prague (CZE)
- Group F: PAOK (GRE)
- Group G: Tottenham Hotspur (ENG) or Vitesse (NED)
- Group H: Qarabag (AZE)
UEL third-place finishers (unseeded in knockout play-offs):
- Group A: Sparta Prague (CZE)
- Group B: PSV Eindhoven (NED)
- Group C: Leicester City (ENG)
- Group D: Fenerbahce (TUR)
- Group E: Marseille (FRA)
- Group F: Midtjylland (DEN)
- Group G: Celtic (SCO)
- Group H: Rapid Wien (AUT)
What are the draw rules?
The eight UECL group runners-up are seeded and placed in one pot. The eight Europa League group third-placed teams, who are unseeded, will be placed in a second pot. A team from the seeded pot will be matched up against a team from the unseeded pot. Teams from the same federation cannot be drawn against one another. For example, Danish sides Randers (seeded) and Midtjylland (unseeded) cannot meet. Same goes for Czech sides Slavia Prague (seeded) and Sparta Prague (unseeded). If Tottenham somehow reach this phase, they would not be allowed to be paired against Leicester City, who were dropped to Conference League play after a disappointing result at Napoli.
Possible opponents for Leicester City include: Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Partizan, Bodo/Glimt, Randers, Slavia Prague, PAOK, Qarabag.
Possible opponents for Marseille or Celtic or Fenerbahce or PSV Eindhoven — all without restrictions — include: Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Partizan, Bodo/Glimt, Randers, Slavia Prague, PAOK, Tottenham Hotspur or Vitesse, Qarabag.
Once teams are drawn, they will meet in two-legged ties — first legs will be played on Feb. 17 and second legs will be on Feb. 24. The away goals rule will no longer be used to decide the ties, which means if tied after two legs, we’ll see extra time and then to a penalty shootout if a winner is not scored. The round of 16 draw will take place a day after the second legs, on Feb. 25 at 8 a.m. ET.
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