FC Luzern has a chance to play Europa League next season – if Manchester United wins the Europa League! Why? Well, it’s complicated. VERY complicated.
FC Luzern just won the Cup, and the whole Zentralschweiz was ecstatic. It was the first title since 1992, after all. But it maybe gets even better for FCL. Because due to a very complicated UEFA rulebook, FCL could be in a very, very good position to finally reach the first international group stage in the history of the club.
Initially, it was assumed that every Swiss club but the champion can qualify only for the new Conference League in the season 21/22. The reason for this is simple: Switzerland finished only 17th in the UEFA 5 year ranking in the season 19/20, which determines which team can attend in which qualifying stages.
No Conference League winner causes crazy domino effect
But UEFA got a problem. Since the new Conference League will be held for the first time next year, there is no current title holder. The rules say that the Conference League winner is automatically qualified for Europa League. Hence there is a spot missing.
And this is where it gets really complicated. So swissfootballdata.com asked an expert to break things down for us. David Parkes is an active member of the well known football nerd forum from Bert Kassiesa and hosts a spreadsheet which shows the current seedings of all clubs for the upcoming international season next year.
“Last week it was leaked that Anorthosis Famagusta, the Cypriot Cup winners, were promoted from the second qualifying stage of Conference League to the third qualifying stage of Europa League”, explains Parkes. Cyprus finished 16th in the UEFA 5 year ranking, right ahead of Switzerland. “Since the title holder spot for Conference League will not be used this season, changes were inevitable.”
But what has this to do with Switzerland? “Originally, it was assumed that if Manchester United wins the Europa League, the remaining Cup Winners not qualifying for the group stage (St. Johnstone of Scotland and Jablonec of Czechia) would qualify for the Europa League playoffs”, says Parkes.
UEFA changed their plans – and Switzerland benefits
But then – acording to sources from the Bert Kassiesa forum – UEFA changed their plans. They decided to promote the next hightest ranked Cup Winners from the Conference League, which are Anorthosis of Cyprus and…. FC Luzern! Well, maybe. It all depends if Manchester United wins the Europa League or not.
And here it gets REALLY complicated. Take a deep breath.
The Europa League winner is automatically qualified for Champions League. But since Manchester United already managed to do that via their league (unlike Villarreal), there is a free spot.
This direct CL spot goes now to Monaco, who are ranked 3rd in France. But then there is another spot missing, since Monaco was supposed to play in the qualifying stages of the Champions League.
“With a spot in CL Q3 being vacated, two teams that originally played in the earlier second qualifying stage get promoted one round: PSV from the Netherlands and Galatasaray of Turkey”, explains Parkes.
“This results in one less team dropping from the second qualifying round for CL to the third qualifying round of EL. To make up, one more cup holder is needed.”
Way easier route for FCL to the group stage
And this is where FC Luzern comes into play! “Along with St. Johnstone, Jablonec and Anorthosis, plus the two losing clubs from the second CL qualifying round, that would mean that Luzern would get that last spot.”
Phew. Talk about a crazy domino effect. The possible opponents of FCL would be:
If FCL would win, they would be guaranteed to be in the Conference League group stage! If they win the last round, too, they would play Europa League. The possible opponents:
So since I don’t want your brain to explode, I’ll leave out the other option when Villarreal wins the Europa League. Let’s just say that in this case, FC Luzern only has the chance to reach the Conference League, but has to play only two instead of three qualifying rounds like Basel and Servette.
Any questions? 😁
Update (26.05.2021): Apparently, in another twist, the whole thing is still not a done deal. UEFA discussing another option now, which would only involve 4 teams in EL Q3 League path. Hence, while St. Johnstone would be promoted directly to the playoffs, Luzern would not be allowed to take part in this round, and instead start in Q3 of Conference League, no matter if Manchester United or Villarreal wins the Europa League.
A decision in that regard is expected from UEFA in the upcoming days. We’ll keep you posted.