In season 1971/72, the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup tournament evolved into the UEFA Cup, with over 100 teams participating from around Europe. During the first season of competition, there was an all-English final of Wolverhampton Wanderers versus Tottenham Hotspur, with Spurs taking the first honours. The title was retained by another English club, Liverpool in 1973, beating Borussia Mönchengladbach in the final. Borussia would win the competition in 1975 and 1979, and reach the final again in 1980. Liverpool won the competition for the second time in 1976, beating Club Brugge in the final.
The competition was traditionally open to the runners-up of domestic leagues, but the competition was merged with UEFA's previous second-tier European competition, the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, in 1999. Since then, the winners of domestic cup competitions have also entered the UEFA Cup. Also, clubs eliminated in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League and the third placed teams at the end of the group phase could go on to compete in the UEFA Cup. Also admitted to the competition are three Fair Play representatives and winners of some selected domestic League Cup competitions.
The competition was traditionally a pure knockout tournament. All ties were two-legged, including the final. Starting with the 1997–98 season, the final became a one-off match, but all other ties remained two-legged. Since the 2009–10 season, the competition has been known as the UEFA Europa League.