The UEFA Europa League (abbreviated as UEL) is an annual football club competition organised by UEFA since 1971 for eligible European football clubs. Clubs qualify for the competition based on their performance in their national leagues and cup competitions. It is the second-tier competition of European club football, ranking below the UEFA Champions League.Previously called the UEFA Cup, the competition has been known as the UEFA Europa League since the 2009–10 season, following a change in format. For UEFA footballing records purposes, the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League are considered the same competition, with the change of name being simply a rebranding.In 1999, the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup was abolished and merged with the UEFA Cup. For the 2004–05 competition a group stage was added prior to the knockout phase. The 2009 re-branding included a merge with the UEFA Intertoto Cup, producing an enlarged competition format, with an expanded group stage and a change in qualifying criteria. The winner of the UEFA Europa League qualifies for the UEFA Super Cup and, since the 2014–15 season, the following season's UEFA Champions League, entering at the group stage.