One of the first moves of the new LEN Bureau and TWPC was changing the competition system in the LEN cups for the clubs.
We have already published an article about the new competition system for the LEN European Club competitions. The European federation has made many changes in the Champions League and Euro Cup formulas. Still, the most significant novelty is launching the new competition – the LEN Challenger Cup.
But, since the deadline for entries is approaching, many ask how they can play in the LEN Challenger Cup.
The deadline for the national federation to submit their clubs for the 2022/23 LEN competitions is July 22, and selected clubs have deadline until August 1 to confirm their applications.
We suggest that all clubs who want to participate, to contact their national federations.
Therefore, it should be mentioned again that there are no direct applications for the LEN Challenger Cup. (from the next season club will have this option)
The clubs that will be eliminated in the qualifications for the LEN Champions League and the LEN Euro Cup can continue their European season in the LEN Challenger Cup.
This is a great opportunity for clubs from many countries (like Sweden, UK, Portugal, Belgium, Poland…) with under developed water polo programs to compete against similar quality clubs from Europe.
It’s important to underline that each country can enter more clubs in the LEN cups than before. A national federation can enter up to five clubs in the LEN men’s competitions (two in the Champions League Qualifications and three in the LEN Euro Cup). The countries with the wild card clubs can have six clubs in the LEN competitions, including wild card holders (3 in the Champions League and 3 in the LEN Euro Cup).
LEN established the new competition with the intention to give more opportunities for the clubs from countries that aren’t water polo powerhouses to compete. They can test their capabilities in encounters with teams from other countries of similar water polo quality levels. It should help the development of water polo in these countries.
Until the season 2022/23, the road to the Champions League was very hard. There were three qualification rounds, and only four clubs advanced to the Champions League, while only four (eliminated in Round 3) could continue the season in the LEN Euro Cup. Many clubs finished their international season already in September and October. Many didn’t even apply for the LEN competition because they were aware they couldn’t pass the first or second hurdle in the qualifications and focused only on domestic matches.
The road to the Champions League will remain the same. It will be challenging to reach the Preliminary Stage. There will be three qualification rounds, and only four clubs will advance to the Preliminary Stage. But, the eliminated clubs will have new chances in the LEN Challenger Cup (or LEN Euro Cup).
LEN Challenger Cup Preliminary Round
The season in this competition begins with the Preliminary round.
The number of participating teams depends on the number of teams entering the Champions League and the LEN Euro Cup qualifications.
The clubs eliminated from the Champions League Qualification Round 1 and LEN Euro Cup qualification round 2 will start in the preliminary round.
Eliminated from the Champions League
If four clubs play in the group of the CHL QR1, then 3rd-placed and 4th-placed go to the Preliminary Round of the LEN Challenger Cup.
If the group has 5 or 6 clubs, the 5th and eventually 6th-ranked club in the group qualify for the Preliminary Round of the LEN Challenger Cup, while the clubs ranked in 3rd and 4th place qualify for the LEN Euro Cup Qualification Round 2.
In both cases, the first two clubs go to the Champions League Qualification Round 2.
LEN may change the system according to the number of participating clubs, but it will not reduce the chances of the clubs reaching the Challenger Cup.
Eliminated from the LEN Euro Cup
All clubs that enter the LEN Euro Cup and fail to qualify for the second round can play in the LEN Challenger Cup Preliminary Round.
Clubs eliminated from the Champions League Qualification Round 1 and the LEN Euro Cup Qualification Round 1 will be seeded into the groups. The tournament system will be applied.
The number of groups depends on the number of qualified teams (eliminated from the CHL QR1 and EC QR1).. LEN may change the system according to the number of participating clubs.
Knock out rounds
In the case of 4 groups in the Preliminary Round, the clubs ranked 1st and 2nd in each group will qualify for the LEN Challenger quarterfinals (the 1st-placed will play against 2nd-placed in the quarters)
In the case of 2 groups, the best 4 ranked teams will qualify for the quarterfinals.
After the Preliminary Round, the knockout system will be applied – the quarterfinals (8 teams), the semifinals (4 teams) and the final (2 teams) will be played on a home-away basis.
That’s for the LEN Challenger Cup. But the new qualifications system for the other two cups also opens new chances. All the clubs that will be eliminated in the Champions League Qualification Round 2 and 3 will have an opportunity to play in the LEN Euro Cup. Find out more – HERE.
All in all, there will be a lot of games and chances for clubs to prove themselves and to make progress, playing in Europe.