The UEFA Europa League, previously called the UEFA Cup, is an annual association football club competition organised by UEFA since 1971 for eligible European football clubs. It is the second most prestigious European club football contest after the UEFA Champions League. Clubs qualify for the competition based on their performance in their national leagues and cup competitions.
Previously called the UEFA Cup, the competition has been known as the UEFA Europa League since the 2009–10 season, following a change in format. For UEFA footballing records purposes, the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League are considered the same competition, with the change of name being simply a rebranding.
In 1999, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup was abolished and merged with the UEFA Cup. For the 2004–05 competition a group stage was added prior to the knockout phase. The 2009 rebranding included a merge with the UEFA Intertoto Cup, producing an enlarged competition format, with an expanded group stage and changed qualifying criteria. The winner of the UEFA Europa League qualifies for the UEFA Super Cup.
The title has been won by 26 different clubs, 12 of which have won the title more than once. The most successful clubs in the competition are Juventus, Internazionale and Liverpool with three titles apiece. Since the tournament changed name and structure in 2009, no club has managed consecutive wins.
The UEFA Cup, also known as the Coupe UEFA, is the trophy awarded annually by UEFA to the football club that wins the UEFA Europa League. Before the 2009–10 season, both the competition and the trophy were known as ‘the UEFA Cup’.
Before the competition was renamed the UEFA Europa League in the 2009–10 season, the UEFA regulations stated that a club could keep the original trophy upon their third consecutive win or fifth win overall. However under the new regulations the trophy remains in UEFA’s keeping at all times. A full-size replica trophy is awarded to each winner of the competition. Also a club that wins three consecutive times or five times overall will receive a ‘special mark of recognition’.
The trophy was designed and crafted by Bertoni for the 1972 UEFA Cup Final. It weighs 15 kg and is silver on a yellow marble plinth.