What is the Uefa Nations League?
Sky Sports has won the right to show the Uefa Nations League, which has come as a surprise to football fans who’d never even heard of the competition.
We can tell you’re already jumping for joy at the thought of international football, but stick with us – it might actually make international breaks a bit more bearable.
What is happening?
Starting from 2018, international friendlies will pretty much all be replaced by teams taking part in the Uefa Nations League.
A huge 55 teams will be split into four leagues – A, B, C and D – and then split into groups of three or four within those leagues, with four teams from each league being promoted or relegated at the end of each “cycle”. The top ranked teams in November 2017 will be in League A, with the lowest ranked sides in League D.
The winners of the four groups in League A will qualify for the Final Four competition, which will take place in June 2019 and consist of a semi-final stage followed by the final. The winner will be crowned Nations League Champion.
While this all sounds like a video game that hasn’t been able to obtain any naming rights, we assure you it is real and Europe’s best players will be taking part. It will even provide teams with another chance to qualify for European Championship tournaments if they fail in regular qualifiers.
Why is it happening?
National football associations have raised concerns about how competitive international friendlies are, and Uefa hopes this will be the antidote.
Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin hopes it will improve the quality of international football.
When is it happening?
The group games will happen over six match days, with double-headers in September, October and November next year. The Final Four competition will happen in June 2019.
Play-offs for the Euros (we’ll get to that in a second) will take place in March 2020.
What’s happening with the Euros?
Qualifying will remain the same for the Euros, and it also remains a 24-team tournament. But four teams will qualify through Nations League play-offs, rather than the third-placed play-offs we had for the last Euros.
So as usual there will be 10 groups, with the top two from each group qualifying for the tournament.
Each Nations League league will be allocated four play-off positions, which should go to each group winner. If any winner has already qualified, the spot will be given to the next best ranked team of the league.
So 16 teams will take part in the play-offs, playing two semi-finals and a final in their groups of four to determine the four final Euro qualifiers.
Who does that benefit?
It could act as a second chance for a high ranked team that has failed to qualify by traditional means, but it also means the 16 lowest-ranked teams are guaranteed a qualifying slot.
Okay, is that all?
That is all. Finally. We hope that made sense.
What are people saying about it?
There’s been a mixed reaction – some people seemingly won’t care for international football no matter the format it takes, while others think this will make international breaks less tedious.
Some are confused at how they’d never heard of the tournament.
But really it’s shown the optimism inherent in the English people…