LEN Euro Cup will begin in December, not in November, as it was planned according to the competition calendar.
Today, LEN confirmed that the Euro Cup would start with the Qualification Round 2 (December 4 – 6).
The Qualification Round 1, scheduled for November (13-15), was canceled.
The competition format and the number of the participating clubs in the LEN Euro Cup still haven’t been officially published. But, according to available information, 16 clubs will enter the Euro Cup. They will be joined by 16 teams eliminated from the Champions League Qualifications. The 32 clubs will be split into eight groups with four clubs in each group. The top two teams from each group will advance to the eight-finals (which shall be played on a home-away basis).
The draw for the second round of the Euro Cup will be held on November 17 (after the Champions League qualifications).
The reasons why LEN shortened the competition calendar are understandable and justifiable. The organizing of the European Cups will be more challenging in the circumstances caused by the pandemic than usual.
On the other side, after the cancelation of the 1st round of the LEN Euro Cup qualifications, playing in the Champions League Qualifications became a waste of money for many participants.
The Champions League Qualifications will be played in November (11-15). Eighteen teams will take part, and only two will advance to the Main Round.
There is no doubt that just a few clubs have chances to qualify for the Champions League Main Round. Most of the others are underdogs in tough competition. Some of the clubs entered the Champions League only because they aim to continue the European season in the Euro Cup, but they can’t enter the LEN Euro Cup directly.
LEN regulations on participating in the European cups are precisely defined:
Participation in the LEN Euro Cup: “Up to two (2) teams but not qualified to the Champions League, to be entered by the Federations which shall play in the Qualification Round I (Phase I)”
Participation in the Champions League: “Federations may submit entries for two (2) teams having finished 1st and 2nd in the National Championships. Federations having a wild card team may submit entry for three (3) teams (wild card included) having finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the National Championships. “
Most of the national leagues in the season 2019/20 have been canceled because of the pandemic. National federations determined the list of the clubs that would play at the European stage according to the standings before the cancelation, or in national cups.
In the end, it turns out that the teams ranked 1st and 2nd (or 3rd, depending on the country) in the national leagues have to play qualifications, while the lower-ranked clubs start from the 2nd round of the LEN Euro Cup. Which teams are in a better position in this competition format?
The road to the Euro Cup from the Champions League was much harder in the previous seasons. Everything was different and clubs had to win a lot of games in both competitions to come to the same point. The four losing teams in the Champions League Qualification Round 3, were “dropping” to the Euro Cup quarterfinals. On the other side, the clubs which were starting the season in the Euro Cup had to pass through two qualification rounds before coming to the quarterfinals.
Still, the clubs that will come in the Euro Cup from the Champions League qualifications will have some type of advantage this season. They shall be higher-seeded in the LEN Euro Cup Qualification Round 2 draw. Besides, the advantage of the eliminated clubs might be the fact that they will play a few strong European matches before entering the Euro Cup.
But, the question remains: Is participating in the qualifications for the Champions League in this special season an advantage or additional costs if a club doesn’t have a realistic chance of reaching the Main stage?