UEFA Nations League
UEFA Nations League
The UEFA Nations League is an international association football competition, to be contested by the senior men’s national teams of the member associations of UEFA, the sport’s European governing body. The first tournament is due to commence in September 2018, after the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and the winner will be decided in June 2019. The competition will largely replace international friendly matches currently played on the FIFA International Match Calendar.
The concept of the UEFA Nations League would see all 55 of UEFA’s member’s associations’ national teams divided into a series of groups based upon a ranking formulated using their recent results, where they would be promoted and relegated to other groups according to their results within the group. The proposed tournament would take place on dates on the International match calendar that are currently allocated for international friendlies and would not affect the FIFA World Cup or UEFA European Championship.
In March 2014, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino stated that one of the benefits of the proposal would be to help less glamorous national associations arrange games. The Football Association’s chairman Greg Dyke said that the proposal is “very attractive”, as England would be expected to play against top-ranking national teams. Royal Belgian Football Association’s general secretary Steven Martens said that lower-ranked nations would still benefit financially from the competition, as the television contract with UEFA would be centralised. The UEFA Nations League was unanimously adopted by the 54 UEFA member associations (Kosovo was not a member at this time) at the XXXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress in Astana on 27 March 2014.
According to the approved format (prior to Kosovo becoming UEFA member), the 55 UEFA national teams will be divided into four divisions (called “Leagues”): 12 teams in League A, 12 teams in League B, 15 teams in League C, and 16 teams in League D. In the top division League A, teams will compete to become the UEFA Nations League champions. Teams will also compete for promotion and relegation to a higher or lower division. The UEFA Nations League will also be linked with the UEFA European Championship qualifying, providing teams with another chance to qualify for the UEFA European Championship. The Nations League has been intended to be a part of future World Cup European qualifications for the same purpose, possibly using the top two divisions.
The format was criticized for allegedly allowing teams not good enough to qualify through the regular qualifiers to make it to the European Championship finals. Also, teams already eliminated from the World Cup qualifiers would benefit from losing games on purpose, in order to drop to a lower league and improve their chances of qualifying through the Nations League playoffs.
Each season of the UEFA Nations League will be played from September to November of an even-numbered year (pool stage), and June of the following odd-numbered year (Nations League Finals of League A), meaning a UEFA Nations League champion will be crowned every two years.