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Dundee United in Europe: Importance of sealing 4th in the Premiership underlined as finances, dates and potential opponents are laid bare

The Europa Conference League trophy
The Europa Conference League trophy

Dundee United are back in Europe for the first time since 2012/13.

Job done, right? Look out your best sombrero, inflate the beach balls and enjoy the party in Dingwall?

For the 2000-plus United fans heading north: absolutely.

However, the men in Tangerine know the importance of securing a positive outcome on Saturday.

United must better Motherwell’s result away at Celtic to pinch fourth spot from the Steelmen.

That will see Courts’ charges enter the Europa Conference League qualifiers at the third round stage, rather than the second.

That is no small detail; no minor benefit. Here, Courier Sport looks at why.

Start dates

Should Dundee United remain in fifth place, their continental campaign will kick off on July 21 with the first leg of their second qualifying round tie.

The second leg will take place on July 28.

The draw for that round takes place on June 15.

If United can pip Motherwell to fourth spot, then their first game will be on August 4, followed by the return leg one week later.

The draw for the third qualifying round takes place on July 18.

Dundee United boss Tam Courts at Ibrox.
Courts is keen to get a rigorous pre-season with his players

While a fortnight difference may seem inconsequential, United boss Tam Courts would be inclined to disagree.

Courts’ arrival last summer was the centre-point of a whirlwind pre-season, with the new boss attempting to get his message across, install his methods and craft a team in a few short weeks.

The Tangerines’ gaffer is keen to have more concerted time on the training pitch with his players — allied with some formative friendlies — this time around.

A later start to competitive action would undoubtedly aid that.

If United reach the playoff round, those ties will take place on August 18 and 25, with the draw taking place on August 1.

Financial difference

Elimination from the Europa Conference League qualifiers can still boost a club’s coffers.

Indeed, the financial difference between finishing fourth and fifth in the Premiership is a compelling motivator.

If a club is beaten in the second qualifying round then, according to 2021/22 figures — which are expected to be an accurate indicator of next season’s monies — then they receive €350,000 (£300,000).

Dylan Levitt celebrates the goal that sent United into Europe

For those teams knocked out in the third qualifying round, the solace of €550,000 (£470,000) awaits.

Just one point separates Motherwell and Dundee United going into Saturday.

Come the summer, that could equate to £170,000.

Those figures are based on the rather pessimistic scenario of United only lasting one round in Europe. More lavish riches lie ahead if the Terrors can go on a more lengthy continental charge.

Clubs eliminated in the playoff round will bank €750,000 (£640,000).

Should United reach the promised land of the group phase, €500,000 (£425,000) per win and €166,000 (£140,000) per draw are on the table.

Those potential fees do not factor in potential bumper crowds at Tannadice and TV rights.

Potential opponents

The side which finishes fifth in the Premiership will be seeded for the second qualifying round.

The catalogue of potential destinations is about as long and varied as one could possibly imagine, with the caveat that many league positions and cup winners are yet to be settled across Europe; lists are not set in stone.

It could be a serendipitous reunion with Jon Daly, now assistant manager of St Patrick’s Athletic, or the logistical nightmare of Kazakhstan’s FC Kyzyl-Zhar SK — and almost everything in between.

St Pat's No.2 and ex-Dundee United striker Jon Daly
A stunning reunion with Jon Daly is a genuine possibility

Faroes Islands (B36 Torshavn, HB Torshavn), Poland (Rakow Czestochowa, Pogon Szczecin, Lechia Gdansk), Hungary (Puskas Akademia, Kisvarda) are among the nations likely to have several unseeded sides represented at this stage, increasing the odds of landing a trip there.

The third qualifying round ratchets up the glamour.

United would be unseeded and the list of potential opponents is a mouth-watering one.

Providing there are no shocks in the prior round, Basel, Slavia Prague, Twente and Anderlecht are among a swathe of clubs who would require no introduction.

How does a trip to Fiorentina’s famed Artemio Franchi Stadium sound?

By contrast, the likes of Flora Tallinn, Shkendija, Kairat and Riga would appear more winnable propositions.

For fans of nostalgia, United could renew hostilities with Hadjuk Split, who they defeated on the road to the 1987 Uefa Cup final.

If United were to reach the playoff round, the big guns arrive.

The teams which finish seventh in the English Premier League (West Ham), La Liga (Villarreal), Serie A (Fiorentina) and the Bundesliga (FC Koln) all join the party.

Again, all placings are accurate at the time of writing — but heady stuff nonetheless.

Let the adventure begin.