By Aris Barkas/ barkas@Eurohoops.net
With the COVID pandemic being a reality to which everyone more or less has already adapted and the 2021-22 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season ready to tip-off, the big question about the future of the league has become the long-rumored expansion.
With the European version of a CBA in place, the fans returning to the gyms even in a limited capacity, and the league getting a bigger presence in markets like Germany and France, the time for an expansion is not that far away because there are simply EuroLeague-level teams that are currently not competing in the EuroLeague.
Τhe obvious examples are of course Valencia, Virtus Bologna, and Partizan. However, there are more projects that have real potential, like Paris Basketball. With a EuroLeague that arguably has no longer any weak link in its current incarnation, playing a game of musical chairs each season and leaving good projects outside simply because there are not enough spots to give, leaves no other pathway than the expansion.
This is an ongoing talk inside the EuroLeague with the clubs which have already secured their spots in the project – and which are practically 14 with the upcoming addition of ALBA Berlin – expressing their own opinions on the matter. And sometimes bigger, doesn’t necessarily mean better.
A 20-team version of the EuroLeague seems at this point like a natural evolution. The tricky part to answer is when this will happen and there’s no decision yet on the matter. Everything is on the table and even Jordi Bertomeu during the last Final Four explained that he would love to see a league with two open spots which will be attributed via the 7DAYS EuroCup and either 16 or 18 teams with a long-term license.
While last season, Bayern Munich and LDLC ASVEL became long-term license holders with ALBA Berlin being added for the moment with an associate wild card for two seasons, it’s hard to imagine that more long-term licenses will be distributed before the summer of 2022. The two wildcards, which were given this season to Zenit St. Petersburg and also to Crvena Zvezda, are not connected directly to their sporting results on the VTB and the Adriatic League, but it’s safe to assume that the ABA League champion will once more get one of the two wildcards for the 2022-23 season, even if Partizan gets qualified to the EuroLeague via the EuroCup.
So don’t expect any big changes before the summer of 2023, even if the talks about the EuroLeague adding two more long-term licenses and get to a total of 16 are ongoing. Still, a basketball ecosystem with a 20-team EuroLeague and a 20-team EuroCup, something that’s already a reality in the second competition, is the most likely pathway for the future. And it might still don’t be enough…