Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: First-Round Preview

I've developed a bit of an obsession with where Scotland's UEFA coefficient is headed, so I might as well go all-in and offer a preview of what is at stake in this week's Europa League kickoff.

The places in the 2016-7 Europa League are actually determined by the coefficient at the end of the 2014-5 season, which is in turn made up of performance over the 2010-2015 time frame. For that, Scotland ranked 23rd. From the 2015-6 coefficient, they dip to 25th for next year's placings. That was actually caused by good performances by Sweden and Norway, rather than significantly worse play by Scottish clubs.

The good news for Scotland is that as 2010-1 performances get wiped off the ledger, they are tentatively back in 23rd place (before 2016-7 results get added in). Again, that's not because Scottish performance in 2010-1 was bad (though it was), but because Cyprus and Israel had really good years that year, which no longer count.

Scotland starts this campaign with 14.55 points. For countries with four clubs in European play (true of everyone ranked 16 through 32), a win in a qualifying round is worth 0.25 points towards their coefficient, and a draw is worth 0.125. Scotland has two clubs in first-round play (Hearts and Aberdeen), for a maximum of 1 point from this round. (Each team plays two games.) Let's look at who they can catch or be caught by. (Data collected from here.)

Azerbaijan was 29th in 2015-6, so they actually have three teams who have to enter in the first round. (One played an early game, hence why they have already picked up 0.125 points.) Thus they could pick up as many as 1.375 points, and pass Scotland as early as next week. By contrast, should Denmark's two teams lose all their games, Scotland's teams could pass them with a clean sweep. Reality will probably be somewhere in between.

At least as important as how many points each of these teams picks up is which of them advance to the second round, where each team can again earn up to half a point. (The same is true of the third round and the playoffs.)

I'll be back around July 8th to review what has happened and to preview the second round. (In the second round, Champions League matches will also start to be relevant.)

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