UEFA Nations League receives green light

Unanimously adopted by the 54 UEFA member associations, the UEFA Nations League will launch in 2018 aiming to improve the quality and standard of international football.

Spain players celebrate after the opening goal by Juan Mata (not pictured) during their FIFA World Cup qualifier against Georgia
Spain players celebrate after the opening goal by Juan Mata (not pictured) during their FIFA World Cup qualifier against Georgia ©AFP/Getty Images

The 54 UEFA member associations unanimously adopted a four-point resolution entitled 'National men's A-team competitions 2018-2022' at the XXXVIII Ordinary UEFA Congress in Astana which will see the launch of the UEFA Nations League from 2018.

The competition will feature promotion and relegation, will see a winning team every odd year and will replace most international friendlies.

"We accept and respect that all UEFA member associations have agreed to create a new competition," said Wolfgang Niersbach, chairman of the National Teams Competition Committee. "This is a big step for national teams in Europe and we hope that fans will support the new format."

The UEFA Nations League and the EURO Qualifiers will be linked, with the new competition allowing an extra chance to qualify for UEFA EURO final tournaments. The competition and proposed amended qualifying formats for the European Qualifiers, starting with UEFA EURO 2020, came after a thorough consultation process with UEFA's member associations which began in 2011.

©UEFA.com

The exact format of the UEFA Nations League has not been finalised 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.

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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.

With UEFA having been requested by the member associations to investigate the future of national team football within the framework of the approved international match calendar, the key driver of the UEFA Nations League is sporting integrity as member associations, coaches, players and supporters increasingly feel that friendly internationals are not providing adequate sporting competition.

In addition, the competition will help UEFA realise its stated goal of improving the quality and standing of national team football while maintaining the balance between club and international football.

The competition will establish the UEFA Nations League champions every odd year while also allowing all nations to play competitively at their level.

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 'National men's A-team competitions 2018-2022' resolution states that the 54 UEFA member associations:

• Recognise the success of the European Qualifiers central marketing for the period 2014-2018 and its benefits for the promotion of National Team football;

• Agree with the new sporting concept of European Qualifiers, UEFA Nations League and friendly matches for the period 2018-2022, within the dates foreseen by the International Match Calendar;

• Support, for this new sporting concept, the continuation of central marketing on a similar model as currently practised, for all National Team matches also for the period 2018-2022;

• Underline the importance of cooperating closely with UEFA to overcome any potential legal, formal and practical issues that might arise, in particular regarding the sales of the centralised media rights in their respective country.