Should we be excited about the new Europa Conference League?

Dylan Bregman wonders if playing in the newest tournament would be a good opportunity

With the announcement of club captain Mark Noble’s final year extension, I think I speak for all when I say it’d be quite special for his last game to be a cup final.

With the Premier League title looking just slightly out of touch, the FA Cup and League Cup could be good opportunities.

But in recent seasons, it seems as though many of the top teams have started taking these a little more serious than previously. So, what about Europe?

This summer a new European competition is starting, the UEFA Europa Conference League, which will begin with qualifying rounds before the start of the 2021/2022 season.

The Conference League joins UEFA’s Champions League and Europa league as a ‘third tier’ competition. It’ll run in the same way as other European tournaments with qual- ifiers, group stages and knockout rounds.

The idea of the UEFA Conference League is to give teams from ‘smaller’ footballing countries a chance to compete in European competitions.

Despite this, the top five ranked UEFA nations (including England) will get one entry. In England this entry goes to those that win the Carabao Cup but, as it looks likely that this will be Manchester City, the Conference League spot will probably end up being given to the team that finishes in 7th position.

Personally, I’d love to see West Ham in the Champions League. To have our famous club competing with the world’s best would be a dream come true.

The possibility of welcoming teams such as Barcelona or Real Madrid to the London Stadium would be tremendous and there are many benefits that would come with it such as the attraction to players and investment.

However, if we are looking for long term progress and a possible trophy, I think the UEFA Europa Conference League could be perfect for the Hammers.

Firstly, as well as we’ve been playing this season, I think we’d struggle to compete with teams in the Champions League with our current squad. I worry that playing in a competition where we are likely to lose could really damage confidence and morale that have both played such a big part in our success this season.

Alternatively, I think it may be really beneficial to enter a competition in which we can be competitive.

If we gain qualification to the UEFA Conference League, we will be one of only five teams from the top five ranked European countries that starts the competition.

As such, we would probably be one of the favourites to win the competition if we play as we have this season. Wins in this supposed ‘easier’ tournament could increase team morale and allow for a lot of squad rotation.

Playing teams closer to our level or even below our level would let Moyes give some fringe players game time as well as some youngsters who are waiting to break through such as Mipo Odubeko and Conor Coventry.

Also, the possibility of getting through the group stages and into the knockouts will give us all more live football to watch next season. You can’t say no to that!

The tournament will also allow David Moyes to try out new systems against teams from countries with differing football philosophies. The five at the back formation that has been used this season could possibly be used by Moyes in the Conference League.

Despite it being used quite frequently in England, it isn’t so well used in other countries and many teams may not be used to facing it. This may allow us to exploit some players’ assets such as Ryan Fredericks and Arthur Masuaku.

Also, with many of the teams in the UEFA Europa Conference League being from outside of the ‘big five’ leagues it is likely that the Hammers would land some quite attractive away destinations.

This could be great for travelling fans who have had a painful 12 months with football being behind closed doors.
Countries such as Switzerland, Czech Republic and Israel will all have three teams in the competition and others like Scotland, Holland and Belgium will have two.

I believe many fans would be disappointed with qualification to the UEFA Europa Conference League due to our success this year and the great chance we have for top four.

However, most of the benefits of the Champions League will still exist and it may be our best chance to see Mark Noble lift a trophy at the end of his last season.

Entering the Conference League rather than the Champions League we will still receive higher prize money than usual, and we will still have a larger pull for both players and investment.

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