The final format and fixture details of the new UEFA Nations League have been given the green light by the UEFA Executive Committee at its meeting at Nyon’s House of European Football on Thursday.
The new competition, which will begin from 2018, will feature promotion and relegation, will see a winning team every odd year and will replace most international friendlies, thereby giving added status and appeal to national team football.
The Executive Committee approved that:
• The UEFA Nations League will be played from September to November 2018
• The UEFA EURO 2020 European Qualifiers will be played from March to November 2019
• The subsequent play-offs will be played in March 2020
• The schedule of matches will be played in accordance with the Week of Football concept
In addition, the Executive Committee decided on the following competition structure:
• The UEFA Nations League will be composed of four divisions, with each division divided into four groups of 3–4 teams
• The 54 participating teams are split into four divisions, A–B–C–D, according to their strength
• League A will include the top-ranked teams, League D the lowest-ranked teams
• Leagues A and B will consist of four groups of three teams
• League C will comprise two groups of three teams and two groups of four teams
• League D will be formed by four groups of four teams
In the first edition of the competition, the participating sides will be classified according to the UEFA national team coefficient rankings (ranking as per 15 November 2017, i.e. conclusion of 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers). The draw will include the necessary conditions to guarantee the sporting fairness and viability of the competition
In each division, four group winners are promoted (or play in the Final Four, see below) and four teams are relegated for the next competition to be played in 2020. The overall UEFA Nations League rankings will determine the composition of the draw pots for the subsequent European Qualifiers
For the Final Four tournament, the four group winners of UEFA Nations League A will play in a knockout format (semi-finals and final) in June 2019 to become the UEFA Nations League champions. The semi-final fixtures will be decided by draw and the venue will be appointed by the UEFA Executive Committee
In relation to the links between the UEFA Nations League and the UEFA EURO, the Executive Committee ratified that:
• The winner and runner-up in each of the ten EURO Qualifiers groups will qualify automatically for the UEFA EURO 2020 final tournament (June 2020)
• The four remaining UEFA EURO 2020 places will be allocated to the winners of play-off matches which will take place in March 2020. Based on results in the UEFA Nations League, 16 teams will take part in the play-offs and are grouped four by four
• The UEFA EURO 2020 draw will be held after the completion of the UEFA Nations League and allow for the four UEFA Nations League Final Four participants to be drawn into groups of five teams
For the play-offs, the Executive Committee decided that:
• The four group winners in each league qualify (16 teams) for the play-offs
• If winner(s) are already qualified through the European Qualifiers, the next best ranked team(s) within the league qualify for the play-offs
• Play-off slots are dropped down to a lower league if less than four sides remain available for a play-off qualification
• The play-offs will be played in the form of direct elimination (two semi-finals and a final)
In addition, for the 2022 World Cup, the same principles will apply to both the UEFA Nations League and the European Qualifiers, but will be adapted to the number of slots available and final tournament dates.
With UEFA having been requested by the member associations to investigate the future of national team football within the framework of the approved international match calendar, the key driver of the UEFA Nations League is sporting integrity, as member associations, coaches, players and supporters increasingly feel that friendly internationals are not providing adequate sporting competition.
In addition, the competition will help UEFA realise its stated goal of improving the quality and standing of national team football while maintaining the balance between club and international football.
The competition will establish the UEFA Nations League champions every odd year while also allowing all nations to play competitively at their level.