A total of 192 teams from 53 UEFA associations are expected to participate in the 2009-10 UEFA Europa League. Countries are allocated places according to the 2008 UEFA league coefficient. The UEFA ranking determines the number of teams competing in the season after the next, not in the first season after the publication of the ranking. Thus, the allocation in 2009-10 is determined by the 2008 ranking, not 2009.
The previous season's winners, Shakhtar Donetsk, would have been guaranteed a place in the group stage even if they did not obtain a qualifying place through their domestic league. However, as Shakhtar qualified for the UEFA Champions League, the original allocation places were altered to compensate for the vacant title holder spot in the group stage. As this was the first edition of the Europa League, it was initially unknown whether UEFA would simply disregard the vacant title holder spot and rearrange entries so that one more team would qualify from the play-off round, or replace the title holders' group stage place with that of the top-ranked association's cup winner and move teams from lower rounds appropriately, as the regulations are unclear on this matter. The former set-up was confirmed by UEFA's official list of participants, published on 16 June 2009. As a result, the domestic cup winners of associations 16 and 17 (Switzerland and Bulgaria) were promoted from the third qualifying round to the play-off round, the domestic cup winners of associations 28 and 29 (Cyprus and Slovenia) were promoted from the second qualifying round to the third qualifying round, and the domestic cup winners of associations 52 and 53 (Andorra and San Marino) and the domestic league runners-up of associations 35 and 36 (Republic of Ireland and Macedonia) were promoted from the first qualifying round to the second qualifying round.
Below is the qualification scheme for the 2009-10 UEFA Europa League (not counting teams relegated from the Champions League):
Associations 1-6 each enter three teams
Associations 7-9 each enter four teams
Associations 10-51 each enter three teams (except Liechtenstein)
Associations 52-53 plus Liechtenstein each enter one team
The top three associations of the 2008-09 UEFA Fair Play ranking (Norway, Denmark, Scotland) each gain an additional berth
First qualifying round (46 teams)
14 domestic league runners-up from associations 37-51 (except Liechtenstein)
29 domestic league third-placed teams from associations 22-51 (except Liechtenstein)
A Europa League place is vacated when a team qualify for both the Champions League and the Europa League, or qualify for the Europa League by more than one method. When a place is vacated, it is redistributed within the national association by the following rules:
When the domestic cup winners (considered as the "highest-placed" qualifier within the national association) also qualify for the Champions League, their Europa League place is vacated, and the remaining Europa League qualifiers are moved up one place, with the final place (with the earliest entrance) taken by the domestic cup runners-up, provided they do not already qualify for the Champions League or the Europa League. Otherwise, this place is taken by the highest-placed league finisher which do not qualify for the Europa League yet.
When the domestic cup winners also qualify for the Europa League through league position, their place through the league position is vacated, and the Europa League qualifiers which finish lower in the league are moved up one place, with the final place taken by the highest-placed league finisher which do not qualify for the Europa League yet.
A place vacated by the League Cup winners is taken by the highest-placed league finisher which do not qualify for the Europa League yet.
A Fair Play place is taken by the highest-ranked team in the domestic Fair Play table which do not qualify for the Champions League or Europa League yet.
If the Europa League title holders also qualify for the Champions League or the Europa League through domestic performance, their vacated place in the Europa League is not taken by any team.
The labels in the parentheses show how each team qualified for the place of its starting round:
<div id="TH"/>TH Title Holder: Shakhtar Donetsk, the title holders of the competition, qualified for the UEFA Champions League as the runner-up of the Ukrainian Premier League. After losing in the Champions League third qualifying round, they entered the UEFA Europa League at the play-off round.
<div id="fn 1"/>Note 1: Israel State Cup winner Beitar Jerusalem (which also finished third in the Israeli Premier League) did not obtain a UEFA license. Since Maccabi Haifa, the State Cup losing finalist, qualified for the Champions League as the league champions, all three Israeli Europa League spots were redistributed among the best-placed teams of the league, with runners-up Hapoel Tel Aviv moving up to the third qualifying round, fourth-placed Maccabi Netanya moving up to the second qualiyfing round, and fifth-placed Bnei Yehuda taking the first qualifying round spot.
<div id="fn 4"/>Note 4: The Armenian Premier League runner-up Ararat Yerevan did not obtain a UEFA license, so Gandzasar, which finished third, were moved up to the second qualifying round, while MIKA, which finished fourth, took the first qualifying round spot.
In the qualifying phase and the play-off round, teams play against each other over two legs on a home-and-away basis.
The draw for the first and second qualifying rounds, conducted by UEFA President Michel Platini and UEFA General Secretary David Taylor, was held on 22 June 2009, and the draw for the third qualifying round, conducted by UEFA Competitions Director Giorgio Marchetti and Head of Club Competitions Michael Heselschwerdt, was held on 17 July 2009. For the draws, clubs were separated into seeded and unseeded teams based on their club coefficient. Because the draws for the second and third qualifying rounds took place before the previous round was completed, the teams were seeded assuming the seeded side in the previous round would be victorious.
First qualifying round
The first legs were played on 2 July, and the second legs were played on 9 July 2009.
The draw for the play-off round, conducted by UEFA General Secretary David Taylor and UEFA Competitions Director Giorgio Marchetti, was held on 7 August 2009. For the draw, clubs were separated into seeded and unseeded teams based on their club coefficient. The first legs were played on 20 August, and the second legs were played on 27 August 2009, except the Shakhtar Donetsk v Sivasspor match, which was moved to 25 August due to Shakhtar's participation in the 2009 UEFA Super Cup.
<div id="fn 10"/>Note 10: The match was abandoned at 0–2 in the 88th minute after one Dinamo Bucureşti fan entered the playing field and other fans invaded the running track around the pitch. The UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body awarded a default 0–3 defeat against Dinamo during an emergency meeting on 25 August. After advancing to the group stage, Dinamo were punished by having their first two home matches in the group stage played behind closed doors.
The draw for the group stage was held at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on 28 August 2009. A total of 48 teams were drawn into twelve groups of four. Teams were divided into four pots, based on their club coefficient. Clubs from the same pot or the same association cannot be drawn into the same group.
In each group, teams played against each other home-and-away. The matchdays were 17 September, 1 October, 22 October, 5 November, 2–3 December, and 16–17 December 2009. The top two in each group advanced to the knockout phase.
During this stage of the tournament, matches featured five on-field officials - with two additional officials monitoring play around the penalty area as part of a FIFA-sanctioned experiment.
Based on Article 7.05 in the UEFA regulations, if two or more teams are equal on points on completion of the group matches, the following criteria will be applied to determine the rankings:
higher number of points obtained in the group matches played among the teams in question;
superior goal difference from the group matches played among the teams in question;
higher number of goals scored away from home in the group matches played among the teams in question;
superior goal difference from all group matches played;
higher number of goals scored;
higher number of coefficient points accumulated by the club in question, as well as its association, over the previous five seasons.
Key to colours in group tables
Group winners and runners-up advance to the round of 32
<div id="fn 11"/>Note 11: On 29 October 2009, UEFA's Control and Disciplinary Body ruled that Dinamo Zagreb would have to play their next two home matches in the UEFA Europa League behind closed doors due to the actions of their supporters in their match at Timişoara. They also deducted three points from the Croatian club's points tally in Group A. The club appealed, but the appeal was not heard until after the first closed-doors game against Ajax. After the appeal was heard, UEFA replaced the three point deduction with a €75,000 fine, and a three-year suspended ban from European competition, while the two-match stadium ban remained unchanged.
In the knockout phase, teams play against each other over two legs on a home-and-away basis, except for the one-match final.
The draw for the round of 32 and round of 16 was held on 18 December 2009, conducted by UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino and UEFA Director of Competitions Giorgio Marchetti. In the round of 32, the group winners and the four better third-placed teams from the Champions League group stage, which would play the second leg at home, were drawn against the group runners-up and the other four third-placed Champions League teams, with the restriction that teams from the same group or the same association cannot be drawn with each other. In the round of 16, there were no seedings, and teams from the same group or the same association may be drawn with each other.
The draw for the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and final (to determine the "home" team) was held on 19 March 2010, conducted by UEFA competitions director Giorgio Marchetti and the ambassador for the Hamburg final, Uwe Seeler. Same as the round of 16, there were no seedings, and teams from the same group or the same association may be drawn with each other.
The first legs were played on 18 February (Everton's home match played on 16 February to avoid being on the same day with Liverpool's home match), and the second legs were played on 25 February 2010 (Benfica's home match played on 23 February to avoid being on the same day with Sporting CP's home match).