The rejuvenation of national team football – and the UEFA Nations League – stems from the desire of UEFA and its 55 member associations to improve the quality and standing of national team football. UEFA and its associations wanted more sporting meaning in national team football, with associations, coaches, players and supporters increasingly of the opinion that friendly matches are not providing adequate competition for national teams.
Extensive consultation and discussions started as far back as the 2011 UEFA Strategy Meeting in Cyprus and continued at a series of Top Executive Programme (TEP) meetings over the following three years. The UEFA Nations League was unanimously adopted at the XXXVIII Ordinary UEFA Congress in Astana on 27 March 2014.
The change to the format followed a consultation process which involved all of UEFA's 55 national associations and reflects their desire to further minimise the number of friendly matches. In addition, it enhances sporting fairness as all teams in four-team groups will play their last match on the same day and at the same time. Moreover, the number of competitive matches during the competition's league phase will increase from 138 to 162, thereby increasing the commercial value of the competition.
The successful concept of the Finals remains untouched, with the four group winners of League A playing each other to determine the UEFA Nations League winners.
The UEFA Nations League will take place as follows:
League Phase draw: 3 March 2020, Amsterdam
Matchday 1: 3–5 September 2020
Matchday 2: 6–8 September 2020
Matchday 3: 8–10 October 2020
Matchday 4: 11–13 October 2020
Matchday 5: 12–14 November 2020
Matchday 6: 15–17 November 2020
Finals draw: tbc
Finals: 2–6 June 2021
Within each league (A, B, C and D), the overall ranking will be calculated based on position in the group then points, goal difference, goals scored, away goals scored, wins, away wins, disciplinary points, coefficient ranking.
National associations and coaches, in consultations with UEFA, revealed that they feel that friendly internationals are not providing adequate sporting competition. The UEFA Nations League creates more meaningful and competitive matches for teams and a dedicated calendar and structure for national team football.
Top teams can also aspire to take part in the UEFA Nations League Finals, a top-level event.
Lower-ranking teams who have struggled against sides ranked considerably higher than them will now get the chance to take part in balanced matches. Teams do not learn and progress by repeatedly losing; now some sides will start winning.
While the UEFA Nations League will replace most friendly internationals, there will still be space in the calendar for friendlies.
Associations and teams benefit from clarity of the fixture calendar, and there is now a clear buffer between the end of the UEFA EURO and FIFA World Cup, and vice versa, as well as stability of income.
Supporters more than most realise that most friendlies fail to deliver competitive and meaningful football. Now they will have the opportunity to see their teams play in more competitive matches.
In every even year there are World Cup or UEFA EURO champions; now in every odd year there will be a UEFA Nations League winners. Football is about competition and now, just like in club football, there will be a national team champion at the close of every season.
No: the UEFA Nations League and European Qualifiers will adhere to the existing agreed international match calendar. UEFA is always keen to preserve the balance between club and international football. The competition should, in fact, reduce demands on players and clubs with less travel envisaged for friendly games while national teams will be playing more consistently at their own level. With double-header matchweeks, players will even go back to their clubs earlier than was previously the case.
No, finances are not a driver for the new competition. However, the competition will have the same centralised media rights as have recently been introduced for all European Qualifiers so associations will have even more stability in their income.
There will certainly be fewer friendly internationals and undoubtedly fewer meaningless friendlies. However, there is still space in the calendar for friendly internationals – particularly warm-up matches for final tournaments. UEFA is also keen that European teams will still have the chance to play opponents from other confederations.
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