The last step of the convoluted path to the Europa Conference League group stage has been set in Tuesday’s draw, giving several Americans their potential play-off round foes for late-August.
The labyrinthian qualification system for UEFA’s third-tier Conference League was given its final set of potential matchups in Tuesday afternoon’s draw, curiously setting up a rematch for one of the competition’s Cinderella stories.
The play-off includes 32 teams that advanced from the soon-beginning third-round ties, another five who directly enter the competition at this round, and seven teams who will drop down from Europa League qualification.
All of the “ifs” and “maybes” might lead to an infrequent rematch of an earlier Champions League qualification round for a pair of Yank-associated teams.
Should Kyle McLagan and Icelandic champions Víkingur Reykjavík pull off an upset over Polish team Lech Poznań in their upcoming third-round tie, they will face the loser of the Europa League qualification tie between Swedish champions Malmö FF and Luxembourg champions F91 Dudelange.
Malmö knocked Vikingur out of Champions League qualification in a thrilling first-round series by an aggregate 6-5 score, before being subsequently kicked down to the Europa league following a 3-0 shut-out against Žalgiris in the next round.
American attacker Romain Gall is on the books for Malmö, but hasn’t figured into their European campaign so far.
Christian Cappis is expected to be a main figure in Brøndby’s third-round tie against Swiss team Basel. Should they advance, they will face either CSKA Sofia or St. Patrick’s Athletic in the following round, likely as slight favorites.
Likewise, Sam Vines is an important contributor in Royal Antwerp’s defense and will likely play in both of their upcoming third-round games against Lillestrøm. A win over the Norwegians would see them advance to face either Icelandic team Breiðablik or Turkish fourth-place domestic finishers Başakşehir FK in the final step before the group stage.
Kenny Saief and his Azerbaijani teammates at Neftçi Baku currently have Rapid Wien in their sights, and should they be successful against the Austrians, will play either Vaduz or Konyaspor in the play-off.
Rokas Pukštas and Hajduk Split have perhaps the toughest road to the group stage, as they must first pass Portuguese team Vitória de Guimarães in the third round, and then will face 2021 Europa League winners Villarreal in the play-off.
Finally, Ian Harkes and Scottish team Dundee United, who enter the competition in the current third-round with a tough matchup against AZ Alkmaar, will potentially face either Riga FC or Gil Vicente in the final play-off round.
The current third-round ties will take place over the next two Thursdays – August 4 and 11 – with the playoffs immediately following on August 18 and 25.
Europa Conference League Play-off Round Draw
Víkingur (Kyle McLagan)/Lech Poznań – Malmö FF (Romain Gall)/F91 Dudelange
CSKA Sofia/Saint Patrick’s Athletic – Brøndby IF (Christian Cappis)/Basel
FC Vaduz/Konyaspor – Neftçi Baku (Kenny Saief)/Rapid Wien
Breiðablik/Başakşehir FK – Lillestrøm SK/Royal Antwerp (Sam Vines)
Villarreal – Hajduk Split (Rokas Pukštas)/Vitória de Guimarães
Dundee United (Ian Harkes)/AZ Alkmaar – Riga FC/Gil Vicente