West Ham’s run to the Europa League semifinals in 2022 took the Hammers to within touching distance of their first major European final since 1976.
However, defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in the last four ended their European adventure. An early Aaron Cresswell red card in the second leg was quickly followed up by another Frankfurt goal as the Bundesliga side advanced 3-1 on aggregate and proceeded to win the tournament.
West Ham needed to finish in the top six in the Premier League to return to the Europa League again next season. But an away loss to Brighton on the final day of the season meant they failed to edge out Manchester United in the battle for one of the berths to the second most prestigious club tournament on the continent.
The Hammers will now drop into the UEFA Europa Conference League in 2022/23 as the third English side to compete in the tournament, following the participation of Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City in the inaugural edition with the Foxes making a run to the last four.
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What is the Europa Conference League?
The UEFA Europa Conference League (UECL) is a third tier European club competition following its inception at the start of 2021/22.
— UEFA Europa Conference League (@europacnfleague) May 23, 2022
The tournament is the product of a drive from UEFA to add a new European competition to the calendar, after disbanding the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1999, alongside the Champions League and the Europa League.
How did West Ham qualify for the Europa Conference League?
At the start of the 2021/22 Premier League season, England’s lone berth in the Conference League was reserved for the League Cup winner.
But since the League Cup winner turned out to be Liverpool, a team which had already qualified to the more prestigious UEFA Champions League, the berth to the Conference League was assigned to the next highest-ranked team in the Premier League.
That allowed the seventh-place side in the Premier League to earn the reward of a berth to the Conference League qualifying stage. West Ham turned out to be the beneficiary.
Across the context of the entire campaign, West Ham fans will feel disappointed to have finished in seventh, barely miss out on the top six places, after spending the better part of five months there. A single win in their last seven Premier League games was enough to see them drop off the pace.
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Who could West Ham play in the Europa Conference League?
West Ham have automatically qualified for the Europa Conference League playoff stage with a two-legged, aggregate-goal win required to reach the group stages.
The qualifier picture is likely to change significantly following the first two rounds of qualification in July and teams dropping down from the Champions League and Europa League.
As it stands, Gil Vicente, Dundee United, Panathinaikos, FC Twente, Zorya Luhansk, Anderlecht, Wolfsberger AC, and Lugano are among the Third Round qualifiers West Ham could face.
What is West Ham’s record in Europe?
West Ham’s assault on the Europa League in 2021/22 was the deepest they have gone in European competition during the Premier League era.
The Hammers failed to reach the group stages of the 2015/16 and 2016/17 Europa League alongside early exits in the UEFA Cup in 2000 and 2007.
However, the club enjoyed a better return in Europe during the 1960s and 1970s, with the first ever continental title coming in the 1965 European Cup Winners’ Cup against 1860 Munich.
They lost out at the semifinal stage in their title defence in 1966, before losing the 1976 final to Anderlecht and reaching the last eight in 1981.