The brand new UEFA Nations League explained
UEFA have confirmed the final competition rules and regulations for the UEFA Nations League, less than a year before the first match is played on 6 September 2018. The Republic of Ireland will be one of 55 nations taking part.
This new national team competition aims to ensure the continued success of national team football by replacing most friendlies with competitive matches and by allowing all nations to play against equally ranked teams.
The format of the UEFA Nations League will feature promotion and relegation and see the 55 European national teams divided into four leagues in accordance with UEFA’s national association coefficient rankings on 11 October 2017. League A will include the top-ranked sides and League D will include the lowest.
Each league will be sub-divided into four groups of three or four teams, and teams will play each other home and away between September and November 2018, thus playing four to six matches within the dates already foreseen by the international match calendar.
The group winners will gain promotion and those who finish bottom will be relegated.
The four group winners of League A will qualify for the UEFA Nations League Finals, to be played in June 2019, with two semi-finals, a third-place match and the final. One host country will be appointed by the UEFA Executive Committee in December 2018 from among the finalist teams.
National teams will thus either be competing to become UEFA Nations League winners, or be fighting for promotion and to avoid relegation.
The League Phase Draw for the UEFA Nations League will take place at the SwissTech Convention Centre in Lausanne on 24 January 2018, when the new UEFA Nations League trophy will also be unveiled.
Qualifying for UEFA EURO 2020
Qualifying for UEFA EURO 2020 remains largely the same, although the European Qualifiers will now begin in the March following a major tournament instead of immediately in September. The teams will be split into ten groups of five or six, and the top two from each group will qualify for the final tournament, determining the first 20 places.
The last four EURO places will be won through the European Qualifiers play-offs, which will be contested by the 16 UEFA Nations League group winners.
If a group winner has already qualified via the European Qualifiers, then their spot will go to the next best-ranked team in their league. If a league does not have four teams to compete, the remaining slots are allocated to teams from another league, according to the overall UEFA Nations League rankings.
Each league will have a path of its own and each path will feature two single-leg semi-finals and one single-leg final. The winner of each path will win a ticket to UEFA EURO 2020.