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 changed qualifying criteria. The winner of the UEFA Europa League qualifies for the UEFA Super Cup, and since the 2014–15 season the winner of the UEFA Europa League also qualifies for the next edition of the UEFA Champions League. The winner enters at the group stage.
The title has been won by 28 different clubs, 12 of which have won the title more than once. The most successful club in the competition are Sevilla with five titles and the current champions are Manchester United after defeating Ajax in the final to win the 2016–17 UEFA Europa League.
The UEFA Cup was preceded by the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, which was a European football competition played between 1955 and 1971. The competition grew from 11 teams during the first cup (1955–58) to 64 teams by the last cup which was played in 1970–71. It had become so important on the European football scene that in the end it was taken over by UEFA and relaunched the following season as the UEFA Cup.
The UEFA Cup was first played in the 1971–72 season, with an all-English final of Wolverhampton Wanderers against Tottenham Hotspur, with Spurs taking the first honours. The title was retained by another English club, Liverpool, in 1973, who defeated Borussia Mönchengladbach in the final. Borussia would win the competition in 1975 and 1979, and reach the final again in 1980. Liverpool won the competition for the second time in 1976 after defeating Club Brugge in the final.