Exactly 50 days ago, SK Sturm played their last competitive game in the Europa League when the cross side lost 3-0 to Sporting Lisbon, but progressed to the knockout stages of the conference league where Slovan Bratislava awaits. Tonight at 8:30 (ORF 1 live) Sturm will be the guest in the quarter-finals of the ÖFB Cup Austria Vienna. And the reigning champion of Styria wants to take the next step to successfully defend the title from last year. But what does a cup win really mean from an international perspective?
As is well known, the upcoming season in the European Cup will bring a major reform. In future, the Champions League and Europa League will have 36 teams instead of 32 in the group stage. The mode is completely different: in the future, eight (instead of the previous six) games will be played in nine groups of four. There are eight different opponents in four home and away matches. All 36 clubs are expected to participate in the Conference League in the future. However, the group stage consists of a league with 36 clubs, each playing six games.
One thing remains the same: this season the Austrian champions continue to qualify for the group stage of the premier class. However, the runner-up will now have to plan without a fixed group stage in the European Cup. After finishing as Bundesliga runners-up in the second qualifying round, they were eliminated in the third qualifying round of the Europa League and then through to the play-offs of the Conference League after being eliminated again. A lucrative group stage is the only reward for (at least) promotion.
This means that this year, apart from the champions, only the cup winner in Austria can plan the group stage in the European Cup. They will be in the play-offs of the Europa League, where they will at least be in the group stage of the Conference League if they are eliminated.
More games, less rest
So if SK Sturm finish second in the Bundesliga like last year and win the ÖFB Cup, coach Christian Ilzer's team (like in 2018) will have the chance to enter the Premier Class with a starting spot for Champions League qualification, but not a stable place in the group stage. If the cup winner is also the champion or runner-up, it goes to the third-placed team in the Bundesliga.
Regardless of who represents Austria in various international tournaments, football fans can certainly expect to see more games. The European Cup will be held from the new season until December 19. It continues on January 21. UEFA's path is clear: more games, more money for everyone.