UEFA Coefficient Battles 2024/25: Race For 22nd

The UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, and UEFA Conference League all get underway next week with the first qualifying round. More than 80 teams will embark on a new continental journey in what is the first season under a completely new format in September.

Following last month’s country coefficient preview series, Extratime Talk opens up another coefficient preview series, this one much shorter. We will take a look at the battles in UEFA’s five-year country coefficient ranking over the next season. While not everyone is familiar with coefficients and its significance, it plays a role in how many spots a country gets in Europe, the competitions, and the starting points for all clubs involved.

Unlike the previous series, not all countries will be mentioned in depth. The majority of them, however, will be, as those national associations are expected to be involved.

Next in this coefficient battle preview will be the race for 22nd place. Realistically, there is only one spot up for grabs here. Yet, as many as seven countries are involved, encompassing 28 teams who will have a significant role to play in this race.

Battle For 22nd Spot: The Situation

This season’s battle for 22nd is a lot more intense than last year’s, especially due to the fact that only one spot is there to be won. With up to seven countries staring at that coveted place, the qualifying round games, particularly in the Europa League, will be pivotal.

Finishing 22nd will allow that country’s domestic champion to enter the second qualifying round of the Champions League, in the domestic champions’ path. The countries ranked 23rd and lower enter the first qualifying round, notwithstanding any potential titleholder rebalancing/banned countries.

Speaking of banned countries, it must be noted that Russia will not have any representatives in Europe this term. Fittingly, they currently hold on to 22nd place at the moment. However, at the time of writing, it is not yet clear whether UEFA will assign them any points like they did in each of the last two campaigns. If any points are assigned, it will likely be the same 4.333 points as the year before.

Below are the seven countries involved in the race for 22nd spot this season.

Country2023/24 Season Coefficient2023/24 5-Year CoefficientStarting 5-Year Coefficient 2024/25
Hungary4.500 (22nd)21.875 (24th)17.375 (23rd)
Cyprus3.750 (28th)22.100 (23rd)16.975 (24th)
Azerbaijan5.875 (18th)20.125 (28th)16.750 (25th)
Slovakia5.000 (20th)19.625 (29th)16.625 (26th)
Bulgaria4.375 (23rd)20.375 (27th)16.250 (27th)
Sweden1.875 (38th)21.500 (25th)15.750 (28th)
Romania3.250 (29th)21.375 (26th)15.500 (29th)

Less than 2.000 points separate Hungary in 23rd, and 29th place Romania. Russia currently has 18.299 points for their five-year coefficient, before any potential assigning of points by UEFA. Still, the closeness in ranking from these seven countries leaves this race well-poised heading into the summer’s qualifying rounds.

Battle For 22nd: The Countries Involved

Countries 23 to 25

The first three countries are all within 1.500 points of Russia, making their target coefficient a bit smaller than the rest. It allows a bit more room for error than the other four nations in this battle. Still, a big season is required from all three of Hungary, Cyprus, and Azerbaijan.

Hungary has had representation in the knockout rounds in Europe in each of the last two seasons, both being by Ferencváros. The country finished 25th and 24th in the 2022/23 and 2023/24 rankings, respectively. Seeing that they lead the pack to commence 2024/25, it would be a massive disappointment for them if, between Fradi, Paks, Féhérvar, and Puskás Academia, they seldom do enough to win 22nd place.

The last one of these seven countries to finish in the top 22 was Cyprus, back in 2022/23. That term saw them earn 5.100 points, the most they have won in the last four years. There is always much potential with the Cypriot clubs. Thus, do not be surprised if APOEL, Paphos, AEK Larnaca, and Omonoia Nicosia lead them to 22nd place.

Ferencváros (UCL Q1)APOEL Nicosia (UCL Q1)Qarabağ (UCL Q2)
Paks (UEL Q1)Paphos (UEL Q1)Zirə (UEL Q1)
Féhérvar (UECL Q2)AEK Larnaca (UECL Q2)Sabah Baku (UECL Q2)
Puskás Academia (UECL Q1)Omonoia Nicosia (UECL Q2)Sumqayit (UECL Q2)

Azerbaijan collected the most points in 2023/24 of all seven nations in this battle, with 5.875. Much of that can be attributed to Qarabağ’s run to the Europa League last 16. In fact, of the 28 teams involved from these countries this year, none have contributed more to their country’s five-year coefficient thank Qarabağ. Can Zirə, Sabah Baku, and Sumqayit help them out this time?

Countries 26 to 29

The remaining four nations will still have something to say in this race. Two of them had a rather mediocre 2023/24 campaign, and will require serious improvements for the new season.

Slovakia was the only other country of the septuplet to earn 5.000 points last term, joining Azerbaijan. If they can build on that, this could end up being a wonderful year. Slovan Bratislava and Spartak Trnava reached the Conference League group stage last fall, and are joined by Ružomberok and DAC Dunajská Streda this time around.

Bulgaria comes into the 2024/25 season off the back of a 4.375-point haul last term. They are the only country in this race not to have earned at least 5.000 in any of the last three seasons. That also highlights their consistency though; they are one of two countries not to have gone below 3.000 points in the last four years (Cyprus is the other). Ludogorets, Botev Plovdiv, Cherno More, and CSKA 1948 are the country’s representatives this season.

Slovan Bratislava (UCL Q1)Ludogorets (UCL Q1)Malmö (UCL Q1)FCSB (UCL Q1)
Ružomberok (UEL Q1)Botev Plovdiv (UEL Q1)Elfsborg (UEL Q1)Corvinul Hunedoara (UEL Q1)
DAC Dunajská Streda (UECL Q2)Cherno More (UECL Q2)Häcken (UECL Q2)CFR Cluj (UECL Q2)
Spartak Trnava (UECL Q2)CSKA 1948 Sofia (UECL Q1)Djurgården (UECL Q2)CS Universitatea (UECL Q2)

Sweden had a horrific 2023/24 season, where they earned just 1.875 points. They are one of three countries in the current top 33 to dip below 2.000 points in the last three seasons (Serbia and Ireland are the other, both also doing so last term). With Malmö back in Europe, this could be a really good year for Swedish football. They are joined by Elfsborg, Häcken, and Djurgården, making Sweden a country to look out for this season.

Rounding out the seven countries is Romania, who was the only one not represented in a group stage in 2023/24. That had to be seen as a massive disappointment for Romania, which was a top 10 nation a decade and a half ago. FCSB, Corvinul Hunedoara, CFR Cluj, and CS Universitatea Craiova are the clubs involved in Europe this campaign, and will need a very strong showing to jump ahead of the other six countries, as well as Russia.

The Decisive Factor in the Battle For 22nd

In order to finish in the top 22, a five-year ranking of about 23.000 points will be required. That means the countries here will need somewhere between 5.375 to 7.500 points this term. The latter end of the required season coefficient haul is quite high, but not impossible to obtain, given the new format.

Now that we know what coefficient is expected, what will the clubs need to do performance-wise? The first expectation is that the domestic champions enter the league phase in Europe. Fail to do this, and it will leave their country under the eight ball. Then, a second team making the Conference League main round will be a necessity. Having just one club in the league phase will no longer be enough, unless that team does something spectacular. On top of this, having a team make the knockout rounds is a welcomed bonus.

Some other factors in this race is having the domestic champion enter the Europa League minimum, as there are two more games in the league phase of that competition, as well as the Champions League, than there is in the Conference League. Moreover, each country will ideally want all of their clubs to progress from at least one tie, assuring a minimum of four games in Europe per club. Finally, as is always the case in these battles, direct clashes between clubs from these seven countries are crucial to their respective country’s success.

Prediction: Who Will Finish 22nd?

Now comes the prediction as to who will finish in 22nd spot in UEFA’s five-year country coefficient ranking. This will be a very intense battle, but this is our prediction:

  1. Cyprus

  2. Sweden
  3. Hungary
  4. Romania
  5. Azerbaijan
  6. Slovakia
  7. Bulgaria

Cyprus is the favourite to finish in 22nd spot at season’s end. The reasoning is quite simple: they are one of the countries most likely to have multiple teams in a league phase. Along with them, Sweden and Romania also have very solid chances of that happening. So, look out for those two countries this season.

The difference between Cyprus, versus Sweden and Romania, is the starting point. Yes, the starting positions are very close. However, those small things can make a big difference. While Cyprus failed to have a team in the knockout rounds in 2023/24, there should be more than enough reason for them to do it again. As previously mentioned, they were the last country to finish a season in the top 22, out of these seven countries. That surely has to count for something.

Of the other four countries, Hungary might have the best starting position, but relying on Ferencváros to do most of the heavy lifting will likely do them in. The same thing goes for Azerbaijan and Bulgaria, who have Qarabağ and Ludogorets, respectively, who also earn the majority of their points.

As for Slovakia, it will be a tall order for them to replicate last fall’s success in qualifying. Spartak Trnava, in particular, will have a target on their back, making it difficult to see them returning to the Conference League proper come October.

We are in for another excellent battle for 22nd place in the coefficient ranking. It will be far from easy for any of these countries, but whoever manages to succeed will have earned their place.

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