UEFA announced on Thursday its executive committee has approved the final format, including promotion and relegation, and fixture details of its new UEFA Nations League competition.
The overall aim of the tournament, which will replace most international friendlies on the six international match dates from September to November 2018 and resume again in June 2019, is to stack the top European nations against one another in competitive fixtures more frequently. And to make money. Lots and lots of money, surely.
The UEFA Nations League will also offer a second qualifying route through its own playoffs system (more on that in a moment) for the World Cup (2022) and European Championship (2020).
Here’s where the Nations League gets a little bit confusing. We’ll just allow UEFA’s official outline to take it away now. How the four “leagues” will be organized:
• 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
How teams will qualify for the “Final Four” and how those playoffs work:
• 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 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
How four teams will qualify for the 2020 European Championship through the Nations League:
• The winner and runner-up in each of the ten EURO Qualifiers groups will qualify automatically for the UEFA EURO 2020 tournament
• The four remaining UEFA EURO 2020 places will be allocated to the winners of play-off matches which will take place in March 2020.
• 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
See? Just as simple as could be. Essentially, the Nations League is the addition of second European Championship-type tournament which has its owner winner and also allows you to qualify for the actual European Championship the following year, and the removal of a few friendlies and the existing European Championship qualifying playoffs.
Here’s a thought: How about we — meaning all the world’s confederations — simply do away with many of these money-grab friendlies — because if we’re being honest, that’s all they are — instead of trying to replace them with “more meaningful ” fixtures. Players and clubs already believe the players, in whom massive amounts of money are invested, are spread too thin — hence the reluctance of players to participate and clubs often times to release their players — which is something that dressing up friendlies as “competitive” fixtures isn’t going to to change.
In short, if a “solution” to “improve” something must be as complex as the UEFA Nations League, perhaps the simpler (read: better) answer is to get rid of the “problem” altogether. But where’s the
money fun in that?