A new UEFA Nations league could be launched in 2018, replacing most friendlies with a competition that features a relegation and promotion system with Euro qualification as a prize.
The new proposal was announced by UEFA, which explained that the new format came as the result of a consulting process with UEFA members that stretched back three years. The idea will be presented to the 54 UEFA member nations at a meeting on Thursday.
“What has triggered this whole discussion is that we have been working to establish a new international calendar,” said Gianni Infantino, UEFA general secretary. “We also wanted to bring more structure to the dates when there are friendly matches,” he said.
“There are some countries everyone wants to play against and other teams who struggle to find opponents, so we looked for something new and have come up with the Nations League, which will be presented to Congress on Thursday.”
The new Nations League was explained in detail on UEFA’s official website:
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.
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.
Many UEFA members — including coaches, players, and supporters — had expressed feelings that international friendlies were not played to a high level of competition. The new structure offers four teams the chance to qualify for the European Championship.
If the UEFA Nations League turns out to be a success, many believe that other confederations could copy the format, spelling an end to friendlies.