UEFA’s 54 member nations unanimously approved the launch of a brand new annual soccer tournament today named the UEFA Nations League, which will launch in 2018. But what is it, and how will it work?
The UEFA Nations League will be linked to the qualifying games for the European Championships, allowing teams an extra chance to qualify for — to begin with — EURO 2020.
UEFA said in a statement, “The exact format of the UEFA Nations League has not been finalized and will be the subject of further discussions between the UEFA member associations but the concept is for the 54 teams to be divided into four large groups according to coefficient rankings.
“Teams compete to be promoted to a higher group or to become the UEFA Nations League champions and to qualify for EURO play-offs.
“Prior to UEFA EURO 2020, each group will be divided into four pools of three or four teams so each team will play four to six matches between September and November 2018.
“The final four competitions, involving the four pool group winners of group A, will start in 2019, whereas play-offs for the UEFA EURO will then take place in March 2020. National teams will thus either be competing to become UEFA Nations League champions or be fighting for promotion and to avoid relegation in their groups, as well as to qualify for the EURO play-offs.
“Qualifying for a UEFA European Championship remains largely the same although qualifying will now begin in the March following a major tournament instead of immediately in September, with four teams qualifying for each final tournament via the UEFA Nations League.”
The concept is a novel one, and should be a hit among soccer fans who have increasingly become bored by international breaks that are meaningless. FIFA has failed to do anything to raise interest in the international game recently, so full credit to UEFA for recognizing that the international break is broken, and developing a unique way to make international matches more interesting to watch.
Once more details are released, we’ll get a better idea of how the Nations League will work, but the idea has a lot of value.
There will still be dates for international friendlies, and the national teams will still play the same number of games that they used to except that the games will have more meaning and purpose than in the past, and will be more competitive.