The UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League (formerly the UEFA Cup) are the two most prestigious club football championships in the world. The Champions League is often considered the most important trophy on offer at club level, exceeding the FIFA Club World Cup, and even standard league premierships. The most successful clubs from around Europe compete against one another every season for the chance to take home a European title.
UEFA Champions League
The UEFA Champions League is, much like the World Cup, one of the most watched sporting events on television. It is broadcast across the world, and the most recent final managed to attract over 200 million viewers.
The competition was founded in 1955 as a two-legged knockout tournament, but, since the 1992-93 season, it has included both a group and knockout stage. The addition of the group stage has allowed for more clubs, in less prominent leagues, to compete in the tournament. Although the qualification structure continues to change, as it stands, only 32 European clubs each season qualify to contest the UEFA Champions League.
Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid is the most successful club in the tournamentís history, winning nine Champions League titles. Barcelona is the current champion, beating Manchester United in 2009 for their third victory in the tournament final.
The UEFA Champions League is one of the lengthiest annual club tournaments in Europe, beginning with qualifying rounds in mid-July (over a month before regular league seasons begin), and concluding at the end of May. Because of this, many clubs tend to have hectic travelling schedules throughout Europe all season. In 2008-09, Manchester United competed in the Barclays Premier League (1st), Carling Cup (Won), Community Shield (Won), FIFA Club World Cup (Won), UEFA Super Cup (Runners-up), and the UEFA Champions League (Runners-up). The sheer number of games some clubs have to compete in often leads managers to weigh up which tournaments are most important. Ordinarily, it is the European tournaments that take precedence over everything else.
UEFA Europa League (UEFA Cup)
The Europa League is also an annual football tournament organized by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). It is not as significant as the Champions League, but its new format, implemented in 2009, allows for 48 European clubs to compete in the group stage of the tournament.
The final club to claim the UEFA Cup (before it became the UEFA Europa League) was Ukranian Premier League runners-up, Shakhtar Donetsk, who defeated German squad Werder Bremen. Since the tournament has a different qualification format, smaller European clubs are able to compete and, ultimately, win the cup. The UEFA Cup has had an extremely diverse array of winners over the years. Clubs from Sweden, Belgium, Turkey, and Russia have all been crowned champions of the tournament, and because of this a winner has become much harder to predict.
Unlike the Champions League, only three football clubs have ever won the UEFA Cup more than twice. The UEFA Europa League promises to continue, and even increase, this diversity in the competition. Eight more clubs will be competing in the newly formatted tournament including national cup winners from Liechtenstein, Andorra, and San Marino. Additionally, when the group stage is complete and 24 teams continue to Round Two, they will be joined by the eight teams who finished third in their respective UEFA Champions League group.
BetUS offers exciting odds for football fans to bet on when following the UEFA club tournaments. At the most recent Champions League Final, Manchester United was favored to win back-to-back titles, but was easily overcome by FC Barcelona. In contrast, in the UEFA Cup final, Shakhtar Donetsk was given clear underdog odds against distinguished German club, Werder Bremen, but came through to win the title in extra time. You can sign up to BetUS today, and get ready for what will surely be an exhilarating season of football in 2009-10.