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UEFA Europa League Preliminary Round: 2019-2020 Tournament Preview

UEFA Europa Legue Preliminary round

Clitonville F.C. logo

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The 2018-2019 UEFA Europa League came to an end when Chelsea F.C. defeated Arsenal F.C. in the final on the 29th May 2019. Remarkably, just two weeks later preparation was underway for the 2019/20 competition. Many may not know that in addition to the 48 teams that qualify for the initial group stage, and the 8 who drop down from the UEFA Champions League, that there are expected to be a total of 213 teams competing tournament. That means that 157 teams will be eliminated from the tournament before the start of the competition proper on 19 September 2019. The qualifying rounds span over 2 months, ending on 29 August 2019.

Barry Town F. C. Logo

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The very first games in the competition are known as the Europa League Preliminary round. There are a total of 14 clubs who participate in this round. The draw takes place on the 11 June 2019, with ties to be played on 27 June 2019, and the return legs on 4 July 2019. However, the 14 clubs involved in the preliminary round are a thousands of miles, and hundreds of millions of pounds away from the glamour of the two London clubs who competed in the final. To put things into a bit of perspective for our U.S. based readers, the 8 countries participating in this round (in order from smallest to largest in land area) Wales, Northern Ireland, Kosovo, San Marino, Luxembourg, the Faroe Islands, Andorra, and Gibraltar cover a total of 20,781 square miles. That is less area than 41 U.S. States, and most closely compares to the size of West Virginia (24,087 sq. mi.). The largest country in the tournament is Wales (8023 sq. mi.). Or less than Maricopa County, Arizona (9224 sq. mi.), the county that Phoenix is in. Wales also has the largest population of these countries at 3,187,203 as of 2018. Maricopa County has a population of 4,307,033 as of 2018 by comparison.

Who Plays In The UEFA Europa League Preliminary Round

Cardiff Metropolitan College F.C. logo

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This round, which is just to gain entry into the First qualifying round, features teams from the smallest European Football Associations. However, the finance and prestige is perhaps more relevant for these teams due to the financial hardship at the clubs from these extremely small nations. Of the 55 nations currently in UEFA, the clubs in this round come from the countries that are ranked 48th-55th.

The seven ties will be drawn in Switzerland on the 11 June 2019, and will feature four British teams. These will be Ballymena United F.C. and Cliftonville F.C. from Northern Ireland, and Barry Town United F.C. and Cardiff Metropolitan University F.C. from Wales. The other teams include: two from San Marino, S.P. La Fiorita and S.P. Tre Fiori, two from Gibraltar, St. Josephs F.C. and the aptly named Europa F.C., two clubs from the Faroe Islands, Klaksvíkar Ítróttarfelag (KI) and Nes Sóknar Ítróttarfelag Runavík (NSÍ Runavík), two clubs from Andorra, UE Sant Julia and UE Engordany, FC Progrès Niederkorn from Luxembourg, and FC Prishtina from Kosovo.

History Of The Four British Clubs In European Play

Ballymena United F.C. logo

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Of the four British clubs, the Cardiff Metropolitan University team is competing for the first time in a European competition. It is made up from students from the University, and is managed by Dr. Christian Edwards, a former defender with Swansea City A.F.C., Nottingham Forest F.C. and Bristol City F.C. among others. Edwards also won an international cap for Wales in the country which will host the draw, when he was and 88th minute sub against Switzerland back in 1996. They are a fully amateur team, and made it to this stage of the competition by defeating Welsh Premier League side Bala Town F.C. on penalties. The second Welsh team is far more experienced in terms of European football. Barry Town have competed in 24 ties, winning 3.  Over the years they have faced some high profile opposition including FC Porto, Dynamo Kiev and Aberdeen F.C.. However, their appearance in the preliminary round this year breaks a lengthy drought, as their last outing in Europe was in 2003-04.

For the two teams from Northern Ireland, Ballymena United, managed by David Jeffrey, who was a defender in his playing days. Jeffery, played 369 games with the Northern Irish club Linfield F.C., scoring an impressive 69 goals fo a defender. He also made a big of a name for himself in European competition, scoring an important away goal for Linfield against Shamrock Rovers F.C. in the 1984-85 European Cup. His club will be hoping to achieve their first win in European competition. They have lost in all seven of their previous appearances, including a 6-0 aggregate defeat to the Italian giants of A.S. Roma in 1981-82. Cliftonville have more experience in Europe, playing in 32 ties throughout their history. They have won four of them, including a recent First qualifying round against win against FC Differdange 03 of Luxembourg on a 3-1 aggregate played on 30 June and 7 July 2016.

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