The UEFA Nations League will soon be one of the most respected international association football competitions in the world. It is interesting to note that this organisation is rather new. It was first conceived in 2013. It was intended to serve as a third national-team tournament for countries from around Europe. Its format consists of all 55 national teams (of members associations). These teams are then divided into different groups based upon their recent competition results. They will then compete within these groups in order to determine their final standings (in relation to other teams). One of the benefits of this format is that it will allow national associations which are not as well-known to arrange games. It also provides every team with the opportunity to play against top-ranked national clubs. Now that we have a basic idea of what the Nations League is, let us take a look at a breakdown of its basic structure.
Nations League Explained
Many are wondering as to why the Nations League was formed. The simple answer is that it provides teams with another chance to enter into the UEFA Championship. Another interesting benefit is that teams could also be able to qualify for the World Cup. The mechanics of this are not yet known. Some believe that Nations League teams will be chosen from the top two divisions. The winners within these divisions could therefore win a place at the World Cup. The Nations League is also intended to replace friendly matches that currently exist within the FIFA International Match Calender.
Nations League Dates
The dates associated with the Nations League can be a bit confusing, so they deserve a closer look. Each season of the UEFA Nations League will take place between September and November. Preliminary events will occur on even-numbered years. This is known as the “pool stage”. June of the following year (an odd-numbered year) represents the League A finals of the Nations League. So, a new champion will be decided every two years. As 2018 is the first year that the pooling phase will take place, specific details such as where the competitions will be held are not yet known. However, some basic dates have been released to the public. The tentative 2018 dates for the pool stage will fall between 6 September and 20 November. In the following year, the League A finals are being played between June 5th – 9th, 2019.
Nations League UEFA
It is important to understand the relationship between the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) and the Nations League. The Nations League is directly linked to the UEFA European Championship qualifiers. These qualifiers were first established in 1960 and they take place in the summer of every fourth year. The most recent one was held in 2016 and 53 teams played. The following will be held in 2020 and it is expected that 55 teams will be entered. Any qualifying matches are held two years prior to the year of the competition. This is why 2018 will be the qualifying year for the 2020 games.
Nations League Format
The recently adopted format will see the Nations League divided into four separate divisions. These divisions will be referred to as “leagues” in the future. Each of the 55 member teams will be placed into one of these leagues. 12 will be present in League A, 12 in League B, 15 in League C and 16 in League D. Four groups are then formed within each of these leagues. Depending upon the original number of clubs, three or four teams will usually make up each group. These teams will then compete against one another in both home and away matches. The results of these competitions will cause teams to either rise or fall to different leagues. League A is considered to be the top tier (the best of the best). The four winners of the groups within League A will then go on to compete in two semi-finals and one final. The winner will then be crowned the UEFA Nations League Champion.
We can imagine that teams are already gearing up for the Euro 2020. One feature to note is that the qualifying process will begin in March 2019 as opposed to September 2018. The process will end in November 2019. The 55 teams within the Nations League will be placed into 10 groups. The top two teams in each group will qualify. These qualifiers will then compete on double-match days in November, October, September, June and March of 2019. 16 of these winning teams will then be allowed to participate in the qualifying play-offs. These take place in March 2020. In other words, they have another opportunity to participate in the UEFA Euro 2020 with this method.
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