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New Coppa Italia Format: José Mourinho’s Roma Could Face Inter Milan in Quarterfinals

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A reduced 44-team tournament means Mourinho already knows he’s on a date with destiny next season.

FBL-ENG-PR-EVERTON-TOTTENHAM Photo by CLIVE BRUNSKILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The Coppa Italia is dead, long live the Coppa. The new cup tournament rules were finally formalized this week ahead of the 2021-22 season. The cup has been reduced from the previous 78-team format to a new 44-team setup, that nearly saw all Serie C and D teams thrown out of the tournament before last-minute compromises were agreed.

The new tournament had already been accused, this past spring by jilted Serie C and D football chiefs, of being a primer for Super League football, given that the Coppa Italia will now be fought among 20 Serie A teams, 20 Serie B teams, and just four wildcards from the rest of Italy’s football league system. The nail in the coffin for the old Coppa format came about after the 2020-21 final—played between Juventus and Atalanta—racked up lower TV ratings than the previous round’s Derby d’Italia.

2021 Coppa Italia: New Cup, New Seeds, Old Rivalries

Try as Atalanta might to knock on the door of the established giants, the TV ratings suggest that Italian football tastes haven’t changed with the times.

The most-watched domestic games still belong to the traditional rivalries among Italy’s biggest and historically most successful clubs and, with the Lega Serie A pushing (more than ever) to make the game more attractive to bigger bids from the TV networks, the new Coppa is essentially built to make sure the overall competitiveness of the tournament remains high earlier in the tournament, while the biggest teams are still kept apart until the latter stages.

That’s boosted by another measure of the new Coppa format: The new seeding system. The random cup draw has been thrown out entirely, and now teams will be seeded based on their league finish in the prior season.

That means Roma already knows who their opponents could be next season: Mourinho’s new club will face his old club Inter Milan in the quarter-finals if both clubs first win their Round of 16 matches.

Roma vs. Inter: Mourinho’s Date with Destiny

Bayern Muenchen v Inter Milan - UEFA Champions League Final Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

As the 7th-placed Serie A team in 2020-2021, Roma did just enough to rank among the top eight seeded Coppa sides who will enter the tournament in the Round of 16 next season. The 7th seeds are in the same bracket as the 2nd seeds, which will be Inter Milan for next season, despite the fact Inter are reigning Serie A champions.

That’s because the number one seed is given to the reigning Coppa Italia holders, which means Juventus go in as top seeds, while AC Milan and Atalanta are bumped down to 3rd and 4th seeds respectively.

All things remaining as they are, Roma are on the opposite side of the draw from top-seeds Juventus, and Roma could only meet the defending Coppa holders in the final. Before then, however, Roma are potentially looking at having to go through both Inter and AC Milan just to get to the final. But the rewards will be greater, next season, if Mourinho can turn Roma into a cup-winning side on the domestic front.

The Ultimate Aim: More TV Money

Atalanta BC v Juventus - TIMVISION Cup Final Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

That’s because the new tournament is pushing for a minimum of €40 million-per-season television deal for the rights to the next three seasons of Coppa Italia coverage. It’s reported that Sky, DAZN and the pay-TV platforms are interested in the Lega’s new proposition to do a joint-coverage deal that would see games aired on both pay-tv and Italian terrestrial television.

The current three-year deal with terrestrial network RAI brings in €35 million per season.

On the face of it, a minimum €5 million TV money increase may not seem like much, but that is the Lega’s minimum starting tender at auction. Any bids above the minimum target would certainly push the prize money for next season’s Coppa Italia winners to above €10 million for taking the trophy home.