A 0-1 home defeat against Antwerp did not spoil the party at the Joseph Marien Stadium in Forest on Sunday afternoon, as the final game of the season confirmed Union Saint-Gilloise's second place, with the chance to play in the Champions League next season.
The overachieving Brussels club finished a remarkable season in second place ahead of local rivals Anderlecht and visitors Antwerp in the Champions’ playoffs, but came behind Club Brugge who pipped them to the title.
Union Saint-Gilloise topped the Belgian First Division from October 2021 to May 2022, surprising all pundits and gaining international attention for their impressive rise to the top of Belgian football. However, the team fell at the last hurdle in the Champions Playoffs when they lost both showdowns against defending champions Club Brugge, who won their third title in a row this season.
Union, having finished first in the regular season ahead of the playoffs, are guaranteed European football next season.
Particularly as they will play two rounds of qualifiers for a chance to play against football’s biggest teams in the Champions League group stages next season. If they do not pass these qualifiers, they will still play in the Europa League next season, which is quite the achievement.
At the final whistle, fans, players and staff celebrated together inside the stadium to mark an unforgettable year.
How many Belgian teams get into the Champions League?
The top two teams in Belgium get Champions League places, with league winners Club Brugge gaining automatic qualification into the group stages. Second-placed Union Saint-Gilloise will enter the third qualifying round, with a final play-off round after to qualify for the prestigious group stages.
According to Le Soir, Union’s first Champions League qualifier game will be either Benfica, PSV Eindhoven, recent Europa League finalists Glasgow Rangers, or the team that qualifies for the third preliminary round between Dynamo Kyiv, Fenerbahçe and Cypriot team Larnaca.
The draw for the Champions League third qualifying round will be on 18 July 2022, while the first leg of the match is to be played on 2-3 August, and the return leg to be on 9 August 2022.
Union Saint-Gilloise, having only been promoted last year, could be in the Champions League group stages next season and could be entertaining the likes of Real Madrid, Inter Milan or Liverpool.
For those wanting to celebrate Union's achievements, the team will go to the Town Hall of Saint-Gilles, located in Place Van Meenen, for a new ceremony. This will begin at 17:30.