The draws for the first and second qualifying rounds of the 2015/16 UEFA Europa League will be made on Monday, with West Ham United joining 103 other clubs in the hat.
The first qualifying round draw will be made at 12noon UK time on Monday with the second qualifying round draw to follow at 1.30pm UK time, with both being streamed live online at UEFA.com.
The two-legged first qualifying round ties will be played on Thursday 2 and Thursday 9 July on a home and away basis, with the second qualifying round scheduled for Thursday 16 and Thursday 23 July.
Kick-off times are yet to be confirmed.
The Hammers are the only English representative in the draw and one of three clubs to have qualified for the tournament through finishing top of their domestic Fair Play League. The other two, Dutch side Go Ahead Eagles and Irish outfit University College Dublin (UCD), were both relegated last season and are the only clubs in the draw who do not play in their domestic top flight.
How does the draw work?
As is always the case, the draw looks set to be a long, slightly confusing and rather convoluted affair.
The first and second qualifying round draws are not regionalised. However, clubs are split into seeding groups ahead of the draw, with each group containing the same number of seeded and unseeded teams.
Before the draw, a computer system is used to prepare the groups such that teams of the same association are not in the same group and that all groups are similar strength (in terms of coefficient value ranking).
All the clubs in each group are ordered randomly and identified by a number. For this example, West Ham could be randomly selected as a No6. There are only two bowls with numbered balls, one with the seeded numbers and one with the unseeded numbers.
The draw determines the pairs in the groups: e.g. (No6 v No4) which means that West Ham and all the other seeded No6 teams in each group play against the unseeded No4 club of each group. In this scenario, West Ham would be at home in the first leg.
In both draws, each club in each seeding group is allocated a number. Balls containing the seeded numbers are placed in one bowl, with balls for the unseeded numbers in the same group placed in another bowl.
The groupings for the second qualifying round will be made after the first qualifying round draw. The balls representing the winners of each first qualifying round tie will take the coefficient of the seeded club in each tie.
Should West Ham progress, they would have the fifth-highest coefficient value in the second qualifying round draw and would therefore be seeded again.
Why are West Ham United seeded?
Teams are ranked according to their coefficient and further split into seeding groups prior to the draw. England are currently second in the UEFA team ranking table behind Spain, with a lowest possible coefficient value of 16.078 points for any English team participating in European competition.
With no UEFA coefficient points of their own, West Ham have been given this coefficient value in the first qualifying round draw, making the Hammers the highest seeded team in the hat. Moldovan side Sheriff Tiraspol (14.500) are seeded second, with Norwegian league runners-up Rosenborg BK (11.875) third.
The 52 clubs with the highest coefficient value are seeded, with the other 52 unseeded. Gibraltar Premier Cup winners College Europa (0.300) have the lowest coefficient of the 104 clubs in the first qualifying round draw.
Who could West Ham United draw in the first qualifying round?
As the top seeds, West Ham cannot face any of the other 51 seeded teams in the first qualifying round draw, meaning they will avoid Slaven Bilic’s old club Hajduk Split of Croatia and recognisable names such as Rosenborg, Serbians Red Star Belgrade, Scottish sides St Johnstone and Aberdeen and Georgian outfit Dinamo Tbilisi – who defeated the Hammers in the European Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-finals 34 years ago.
Of the unseeded clubs in the draw, who could potentially provide opposition for West Ham on 2 July, Cukaricki Belgrade, who finished third in the Serbian Superliga last season, have the highest coefficient value (3.275). Latvians Skonto Riga (3.100), Norwegian club Odds BK (2.875), Hungarian side MTK Budapest (2.450) and League of Ireland challengers Cork City (1.150) are names which might be familiar to West Ham fans.
The Hammers have faced just one of the unseeded clubs previously in competitive football. FC Lahti finished third in the Finnish Veikkausluga, and were known by their former guise of Lahden Reipas when West Ham beat them 5-2 on aggregate in the European Cup Winners’ Cup first round in 1975/76.
For those among the Claret and Blue Army who want to collect some air miles while following their heroes, the longest potential trip is to Kazakhstan Cup winners Kairat, based in the city of Almaty a mammoth 3,482 miles from the Boleyn Ground. Compatriots Ordabasy finished fourth in the Kazakhstan Premier League and are based just a tad closer at 3,211 miles from east London.
If you fancy a bit of sun on your back, Balzan FC finished fourth in the Maltese Premier League and are likely to be unseeded, as are the the aforementioned Gibraltan Cup College Europa winners. Unfortunately, Cypriot clubs Apollon Limassol and Omonia Nicosia are both seeded!
Closer to home, the shortest potential trip West Ham could make is likely to be to Welsh Premier League side Newtown, who qualified through a play-off and are based in the Powys town just 208 miles from the Boleyn Ground. Fellow Welsh sides Airbus UK Broughton (214 miles) and Bala Town (221 miles) will also represent Wales in the 2015/16 competition.
Northern Irish clubs Glentoran and Glenavon are also expected to be among the unseeded clubs in the draw, as are representatives from Albania, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Luxembourg, Montenegro and San Marino, among others.
Whoever West Ham are drawn to face, the Claret and Blue Army are sure to enthusiastically follow their team over land and, providing we do not draw any of the three Welsh sides in the hat, sea. Roll on 22 June!
How do I find out more information?
UEFA have kindly listed all of the qualified teams on their website here.
For more facts and figures about the 2015/16 UEFA Europa League, including how West Ham United could help London match Madrid and Seville’s record for the number of tournament wins achieved by clubs from a single city, click here.