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Albania to Host 1st Europa Conference League Final in 2022

Αssociated Press

FILE - This Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019 file photo shows the new Arena Kombetare stadium before the Euro 2020 group H qualifying soccer match between Albania and France in Tirana. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina, File)

NYON, Switzerland — The national soccer stadium in Albania was chosen Thursday to host the first final of a new European club competition.

UEFA said the 22,500-seat Arena Kombëtare in Tirana will stage the inaugural Europa Conference League final in May 2022.

The competition launches next season as the third tier in the pyramid of European competitions, behind the Champions League and Europa League. It was created to help countries whose teams rarely reach the group stage of the two existing competitions.

Teams from all 55 UEFA member countries will enter the Europa Conference League, which will have qualifying rounds, a 32-team group stage and knockout rounds.

The entry list foresees the sixth-place team at the end of this season in Europe's four highest-ranked leagues — Spain, England, Germany and Italy — entering the Europa Conference League at the qualifying playoff stage.

The format means a team could play in all three club competitions in the same season.

A team eliminated in Champions League qualifying could transfer into the Europa League. Third-place teams in Europa League groups then move into a playoff round in the Europa Conference League with a place in its last-16 at stake.

The Europa Conference League champion in Tirana will earn a place in the next season's Europa League, which will cut its group stage from 48 teams to 32 from 2021.

The final tournament of UEFA's newest national team competition, the Nations League, will be played at the San Siro in Milan and Juventus Stadium in Turin next October.

UEFA made the semifinal draw on Thursday, pairing host Italy with Spain in Milan on Oct. 6, and Belgium against France in Turin the next day. The final and third-place games will both be played on Oct. 10.

The standout lineup — top-ranked Belgium and three recent World Cup champions — qualified for the mini-tournament by winning groups in the Nations League.

Their Nations League commitments, when the rest of Europe will be playing in World Cup qualifying groups, will affect that draw. Belgium, France, Italy and Spain must each be drawn in a qualifying group of five teams instead of six to clear space in their schedules.