Reaching the Scottish Cup final with a 2-1 victory over Hibs guarantees European group-stage football at Tynecastle Park next season. First, Hearts face a Europa League play-off in August which will determine whether they play in that competition’s group phase or parachute down into the Europa Conference League.
Cup winners from some major nations will also be involved in the play-off round, with some already confirmed. Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven take their place as things stand after overcoming Ajax in Sunday’s final, however they can qualify for the Champions League through domestic league placing.
Gent won Monday’s Belgian Cup final against Anderlecht on penalties and will be in the Europa League play-off.
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The Austrian cup permits entry at the same stage, with finalists RB Salzburg and SV Ried preparing to do battle on May 1. Salzburg would likely qualify for the Champions League through their league position, so Ried – Peter Haring’s former club – would hope to assume the cup’s route into Europe.
Turkey’s cup holders will be one of four semi-finalists – Trabzonspor, Kayserispor, Alanyaspor and Sivasspor. They could be joined by other cup winners from Denmark, Cyprus, Serbia and Czech Republic, although clubs from those four nations would first need to progress from the Europa League’s third qualifying round.
With Hearts expected to be seeded for the draw, they could be paired with one of the teams from Denmark, Cyprus, Serbia or Czech. Due to UEFA’s co-efficient system – and as a seeded club – they would be most likely to face a side which progresses from the third qualifying round.
There will also be far bigger and richer clubs dropping into the Europa League play-off from the Champions League qualifiers.
Neil Lennon may find himself in there, too. His Omonia Nicosia side are it the Cypriot Cup semi-finals and aiming to win the trophy. That would allow Lennon to return to European competition after many adventures there whilst managing Celtic.
Reaching the Europa League or Europa Conference League group stage carries massive financial rewards. Playing in a Europa League group comes with an instant prize of circa £3.2m. In the Conference League groups, it’s around £2.7m. Then comes ticket revenue and cash for points.
A Europa League group victory pays £475,000 and a draw £160,000. The Conference League pays £420,000 per win and £140,000 for a draw. There is also a £250,000 “cushion” given to any club defeated in the Europa League play-off and sent into the Conference groups.