Ahead of the draw for the first qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League, which takes place on Tuesday, June 20th, Sean De Loughry takes a look at who we could end up facing.
With the rest of the European leagues coming to a close, a clearer picture is starting to emerge of Dundalk’s likely UEFA Europa Conference League first-qualifying-round opponents.
The first qualifying round will consist of 62 clubs and is the reserve of counties ranked 29th and below in Europe.
Seeding is based on a club’s European performance over the previous five seasons, and any club consistently qualifying for Europe is almost guaranteed to be seeded in the first round. Dundalk’s relatively strong recent record means we will be seeded in the first qualifying round – and the second qualifying round if we progress. We would be unseeded in the third round.
In the first round of European competitions, the draw tends to be informally regionalised, meaning Dundalk are very likely to face a Northern/Western European opponent. This is not guaranteed, but here’s a look at some of our possible unseeded opponents.
Northern Ireland: Linfield and Crusaders will both be seeded in round one so cannot face Dundalk, but Conference League playoff winners Glentoran will be unseeded.
Wales: Connahs Quay Nomads will be seeded in round one but the other two Welsh clubs would be unseeded. European debutants Penybont from South Wales have announced that their home games will be played at Dunraven Brewery Field, the home of rugby club, Bridgend Ravens.
Haverfordwest County won through the complex end-of-season Conference League playoff, despite finishing seventh in the league. It’s their second European jaunt and the first in 19 years. They will play their home game at the 33,000-capacity Cardiff City Stadium.
Iceland: Both qualifiers would be unseeded; Vikingur from Reykjavik and KA from Akureyri on the north coast.
Faroe Islands: Both HB and B36 will be seeded, but Vikingur will be unseeded.
Finland: Both qualifiers would be unseeded and would likely prove difficult opponents given the relative strength of the Finnish league; Honka from Espoo, Johannes Yli-Kokko’s home town, near Helsinki, and Haka from Valkaekoski.
Estonia: Levadia will be seeded and cup winners Trans Narva will be unseeded. Paide, from Tallinn, will also be seeded.
Lithuania: European debutants Hegelmann and Panevezys will both be unseeded.
The two qualifiers from Latvia, Luxembourg and Andorra will all be seeded in round one.
Belarus: Things are an utter mess in Belarus, notwithstanding the ongoing war in the region. Champions Shakhtyor Soligorsk and runners-up Energetik were both found guilty of match-fixing, docked points and kicked out of Europe, meaning that third-placed BATE Borisov – how could we forget them – are now promoted to the Champions League.
Fourth-placed Dinamo Minsk will be seeded in the first round and European debutants, fifth-placed Isloch Minsk Raion will be unseeded. In the 2022-23 season, all the Belarussian clubs were barred from hosting home ties, so all played their ‘home’ games in the away country, behind closed doors. That looks to be the most likely scenario again this season.
The second round brings in some strong teams from Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Scotland, Serbia and Portugal, among others. Dundalk would be seeded in the second round, thereby avoiding the really big hitters, but the luck of the draw is key.
We could face a weak first-round qualifier or an unseeded side with little recent European experience from a strongish league – like Luzern from Switzerland, AGF from Denmark or Vojvodina from Serbia.
The first qualifying round draw will take place on Tuesday, June 20th and will be streamed live on UEFA.com. The second qualifying round draw takes place the following day, on Wednesday, June 21st.
UEFA Europa Conference League Qualifying Round Key Dates
- June 20th: UEFA Europa Conference League first qualifying round draw
- June 21st: UEFA Europa Conference League second qualifying round draw
- July 13th: UEFA Europa Conference League first qualifying round first legs
- July 20th: UEFA Europa Conference League first qualifying round second legs
- July 24th: UEFA Europa Conference League third qualifying round draw
- July 27th: UEFA Europa Conference League second qualifying round first legs
- August 3rd: UEFA Europa Conference League second qualifying round second legs
- August 7th: UEFA Europa Conference League play-off draw
- August 10th: UEFA Europa Conference League third qualifying round first legs
- August 17th: UEFA Europa Conference League third qualifying round second legs
- August 24th: UEFA Europa Conference League play-off first legs
- August 31st: UEFA Europa Conference League play-off second legs