Betting Europa LeagueThe UEFA Cup is a football competition for European club teams, organised by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). It is the second most important international competition for European football clubs, after the UEFA Champions League. Clubs qualify for the UEFA Cup based on their performance in national leagues and cup competitions. This competition will be rebranded as the UEFA Europa League come July 2009.
The competition began in 1971 and replaced the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. In 1999, the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup was abolished and merged with the UEFA Cup.
Zenit St. Petersburg are the current holders of the UEFA Cup, having beaten Rangers in the 2008 final on 14 May 2008. The UEFA Cup Final will be played at the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium, home ground of Fenerbahçe, in Istanbul, Turkey, on 20 May 2009.
When the competition was taken over by UEFA in 1995, the format was both a group stage and a knock-out stage; 60 teams were split into 12 groups of five with the 16 best teams then contesting the knock-out stage with two-legged ties at each stage, the two winning finalists qualifying for the UEFA Cup. In 1996 and 1997 just the 12 group winners entered the knock-out round, with now three finalists advancing. Nations were allocated places according to their UEFA coefficients, much as with other UEFA tournaments.
The group stage was scrapped for the 1998 tournament, which became a straight knock-out tournament, with clubs from more successful nations entering at a later stage. This arrangement lasted until 2005.
From the 2006 tournament the format for the Cup changed. There are three rounds instead of the previous five, and the eleven winning teams from the third round went through to the second qualifying round of the UEFA Cup. For the first time since the 1960s, there is provision for an actual trophy — whichever sides go furthest in the UEFA Cup will each be awarded a trophy. The first winners were Newcastle United, who won the 2006 tournament outright by going further in the UEFA Cup 2006–07 than the other ten qualifiers.
Only one team from each national association will be allowed to enter. However, should one or more nations not take up their place, the possibility has been left open for nations to have a second entrant. Seedings and entry are determined by each association. Teams from the weakest federations enter at the first round stage, while those from mid-level federations enter in the second round, and those from the strongest federations enter in the third round.
The seventh, eighth and ninth ranked may instead subscribe to the Intertoto Cup.