Interesting year shaping up for Portugal in European competition. With the addition of a third competition--the Europa Conference League--there's more to keep track of and at least in theory more chances for Portuguese teams to enjoy success in a Europe-wide setting. Here's a quick sense of where things are at: 1. Champions League (CL) Porto and Sporting are already into the group stage. Benfica thumped Spartak Moskva 4-0 on aggregate in the initial qualifier stage, but still has to beat PSV Eindhoven in a final playoff to reach the group stage as well. First leg went all right for Benfica, they won at home 2-1. But that away goal may hurt them (though I heard a rumor that UEFA is not using away goals as tiebreakers--anyone know anything about this?) in Holland. 1-0 win would do it for PSV. If Benfica fails to qualify for the CL though they'll be in the Europa League group stages. 2. Europa League (EL) Braga is in. Benfica may join them, see above. 3. Europa Conference League (ECL) This has been a really interesting new addition. It's basically a third competition for teams that don't make the EL or who fail out at the qualifying stage of the EL. Portugal has two teams seeking to qualify for the ECL group stage: Sta Clara and Pacos de Ferreira. Both did great in their initial qualifiers, going undefeated to reach the final playoff before the group stage. But both teams got rough draws. Sta Clara got Partizan Belgrade, a good but not elite team from Serbia. But Pacos de Ferreira got Tottenham Hotspur, possibly the strongest team in the ECL. First legs were yesterday and both teams won. Sta Clara won 2-1 at home v Partizan Belgrade, which puts them in a good but not great position to advance. But Pacos de Ferreira won 1-0 at home v Tottenham, which is a fantastic result and very admirable. With no away goals conceded, who knows? Maybe they can pull of the miracle and qualify for the group stage vs the team that was sixth in the EPL last year. Owing to the teams' strong performance in early qualifiers, Portugal is now ranked 4th this year in Europe, but it's way too early for that to be meaningful, since the top countries haven't really gotten into the action yet. Still, it's a good start, and three big qualifiers--Benfica, Sta Clara, and Pacos de Ferreira--to watch out for next week.