The Ukrainian soccer season has been officially canceled due to the Russian invasion, clearing the way for Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv to compete in the Champions League next season.
After a video conference with teams on Tuesday, the league said that the standings as of Feb. 24, when the Russian invasion started and games were postponed, would be deemed final “since the championship cannot be played to completion.”
Shakhtar was the league’s leading at the time, but the league said that no formal championship would be awarded.
If Ukrainian clubs are allowed to compete, the rankings might determine qualifying for European events next season. The Ukrainian soccer organization must ratify the league’s decision, and tournament entries must be sent to UEFA by early June. This includes two spots in the next Champions League.
The Ukrainian league champion was scheduled to join the playoff qualifying rounds in August, having to defeat one opponent to proceed to the group round.
However, one conceivable possibility is that Shakhtar gets promoted to the group stage in order to grab the direct entrance reserved for the Russian league winner, which is presently projected to be Zenit St. Petersburg.
Because of the conflict, UEFA has barred all Russian teams from participating in its tournaments, and it is uncertain how that suspension will be removed before the start of the next season. Ukraine, with a national league rated 12th by UEFA, would be the next in line for the direct entrance Russia may be obliged to forego.
Of the league’s 16 clubs, FC Mariupol’s home stadium is now in Russian territory, while Desna Chernihiv’s stadium was destroyed by bombardments that collapsed part of a stand and left a large hole in the field.
Ukraine’s two largest teams, Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kiev, are traveling Europe to play a series of charity games against clubs from around the continent in order to raise cash for war victims.
Shakhtar previously had to flee its home city of Donetsk in 2014 after being taken over by Russia-backed rebels, and the club has since been headquartered elsewhere in Ukraine, as has Zorya Luhansk, another first division team.
Dynamo finished second behind Shakhtar in the now-suspended league standings and might compete in the Champions League’s second qualifying round. The draw for that round is set on June 15 at UEFA headquarters in Switzerland, with games taking place from July 19 to 27.
Dnipro, who finished third, might be admitted to the Europa League and compete in the playoff round in August. The fourth and fifth-placed clubs, Zorya Luhansk and Vorskla Poltava are set to go to the Europa Conference League qualifying stages.
It is unclear how Ukrainian teams will retain and sign players for the next season, as well as where they will train and play domestic and international games.
The Ukrainian men’s national team is still in the running for a place in this year’s World Cup. Ukraine will meet Scotland in a rescheduled qualifying playoff game on June 1 in Glasgow, with the winner facing Wales four days later in Cardiff for a spot in the tournament in Qatar.