Why the Scottish Cup takes greater importance for Hearts, Hibs & others with lucrative European spot on offer

The Scottish Cup quarter-finals will take place across Saturday, Sunday and Monday with the four winners one step closer to a Hampden Park showdown in May.

The Scottish Cup will play an important part in European qualification.  (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
The Scottish Cup will play an important part in European qualification. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

The make-up of the semi-finals will paint a clearer picture of the teams who will represent Scotland in Europe next season and in which competitions.

As things stand, Celtic will either enter the Champions League group stages or the final qualifying round in the champions route, while Rangers will join the league path in the second or third qualifying round. Both depend on the teams which win this season's Champions League and Europa League.

Below them, Hearts, sitting comfortably in third, would play in the Europa Conference League for the first time, entering at the third qualifying round. Whoever finishes fourth, currently occupied by Hibs, would join the round before.

That leaves one very important place in Europe for the Scottish Cup winners.

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A place is reserved in the Europa League play-off round for the team which wins the biggest cup match of the domestic season. With that comes guaranteed group stage football and European action until December.

A win in the Europa League play-off would earn passage to the group stages. Defeat and the team drops into the Conference League group stage.

However, if either Celtic or Rangers were to progress past Dundee United and Dundee and go onto win the trophy the place in the Europa League play-off would revert to the third-place team in the Premiership and not the cup runners-up.

Entry to the Europa League play-off has the potential to be huge for the team who gain entry as Scotland’s representative in the tournament, whether it be Hearts or one of Dundee, Dundee United, Hibs, Motherwell or St Mirren who make up the last eight of the Scottish Cup.

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Possible opponents in the Europa League play-off could include cup winners from The Netherlands, Belgium and Austria, plus a number of teams dropping down from Champions League qualification.

Scotland’s entrants would likely be the underdogs in such a match-up but win or lose they will play group stage football and benefit from the windfall in prize money and gate receipts which arrives from what will be at least eight games.

A tournament which usually takes on great importance has become that little bit more important.

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Why Hearts and Hibs must place so much emphasis on this Scottish Cup weekend

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