The UEFA Cup Winners Cup (CWC) was a football club competition contested annually by the most recent winners of all European domestic cup competitions. The cup is one of the many inter-European club competitions that have been organised by UEFA. The first competition was held in the 1960–61 season, and the last in 1998–99. The competition was then abolished to make way for a further expansion to the UEFA Champions League, with domestic cup winners now gaining entry into the UEFA Cup, later renamed as UEFA Europa League.
Prior to its abolition, the Cup Winners' Cup was regarded as the second most prestigious European club competition out of the three major tournaments, behind the UEFA Champions League/European Cup and ahead of the UEFA Cup, although many commentators felt the Cup Winners' Cup was the easiest of the three competitions to win. However, no club successfully defended the Cup Winners' Cup, with such major names in European football as FC Barcelona, Valencia CF, Dynamo Kiev, Arsenal, AC Milan and Manchester United failing to defend the trophy. The idea of the Cup Winners' Cup "jinx" against the defending side came to prominence particularly due to the unlikely manner of Arsenal's defeat in the 1995 final and the defeat of Paris Saint-Germain in 1997.
From 1972 onwards, the winner of the tournament would go on to play the winner of the European Cup (later the UEFA Champions League) in the UEFA Super Cup. Since the abolition of the Cup Winners' Cup, the Super Cup place previously reserved for the CWC winner has been taken by the winner of the UEFA Cup, now Europa League.
From its inception until 1994, the competition was known as the European Cup Winners' Cup – from the 1994–95 season onwards, UEFA officially named the tournament the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. The competition is also sometimes referred to as European Cup 2, EC2 or simply C2, usually in football statistics books and websites, although this shorthand was also used on some match tickets and in programmes. Despite the abolition of the Cup Winners' Cup, the modern Europa League is still referred to in shorthand as EC3, in order to avoid confusion with the CWC.
Throughout its 39-year history, the Cup Winners' Cup was always a straight knock-out tournament with two-legged home and away ties up until the single match final staged at a neutral venue, the only exception to this being the two-legged final in the competition's first year. In common with other UEFA club tournaments, the away goal applied when aggregate scores was parity. The format was identical to the original European Champions' Cup with 32 teams contesting four knock-out rounds prior to the showpiece final, with the tournament usually running from September to May each year. In later years, a regular August preliminary round was added to reduce the number of entrants to 32 following the influx of new UEFA member nations during the 1990s.
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