Should all go to plan at Hampden on Saturday, St Johnstone’s interest in the inaugural Europa Conference League will be a fleeting one.
If they defeat Hibernian then they will instead qualify for the Europa League and would only need to concern themselves with UEFA’s newest tournament in they event that they exit at the play-off stage.
Nevertheless, a gutsy draw against Livingston has assured the Saintees a European safety net and, with many fans still getting their head around the competition, this is everything supporters need to know.
When would the Saints’ campaign start?
St Johnstone would enter at the second qualifying round, which sees 110 teams split into a ‘Champions Path’ involving 20 teams and the ‘Main Path’ of 90. St Johnstone would be involved in the latter.
The first leg will take place on July 22 followed by the return fixture seven days later. The draw takes place on June 16.
St Johnstone’s first hurdle
St Johnstone have become accustomed to lengthy European trips in recent years and they could face another this summer.
With so many teams yet to confirm their place in the competition, seedings are yet to be cemented — but potential foes span the continent from Wales to Kazakhstan, including some familiar faces.
Teams already in the pot include their old Europa League foes Rosenborg (Nor), Basel (Sui), Astana (Kaz) and Temuri Ketsbaia’s Anorthosis Famagusta (Cyp).
Based on current league standings* in some of Europe’s mid-tier leagues, Vitoria de Guimaraes (Por), Anderlecht (Bel) and the winner of the playoffs between Feyenoord, Utrecht, FC Groningen or Sparta Rotterdam (Ned) may enter at the second qualifying round.
The Europa Conference League is a tournament designed to afford clubs from ‘smaller nations’ a more realistic opportunity to progress to the group stage of continental competition.
That does not, however, mean St Johnstone cannot land a mouth-watering tie, provided they at least navigate a couple of rounds.
Based on current standings*, Villarreal, West Ham United, Union Berlin, AS Roma and RC Lens would represent the ‘Big Five’ leagues.
What is the structure?
No teams qualify directly for the group stage.
The 32 teams which reach that stage will be made up of 17 teams which prevail from the ‘Main Path, five teams from the ‘Champions Path’ and 10 teams eliminated in the UEFA Europa League play-offs.
There will the then be eight groups of four, followed by the knockout rounds.
The eight group winners automatically progress, while the eight group runners-up and the third-ranked teams of the UEFA Europa League groups will cross swords for their places in the last 16.
Where will the final be held?
Confident Saintees can start eyeing accommodation and the price of a pint in Albania.
The inaugural Europa Conference League final will take place on May 25, 2022 at the 22,500-capacity National Arena in Tirana.
The winner earns a place in the 2022/23 Europa League group stage.
*Correct as of May 17.