New formats for UEFA men's national team competitions
Wednesday, 25 January 2023
Smaller groups for the European Qualifiers and a new UEFA Nations League knockout round.
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The UEFA Executive Committee today met at the House of European Football in Nyon, Switzerland, and approved new formats for its men's national team competitions that will come into effect in September 2024.
Following an extensive consultation process with its national associations, it was decided to slightly modify the current formats of the UEFA Nations League and the European Qualifiers to provide more compelling and exciting competitions within existing dates, as well as to strengthen the resources of national associations and ensure a steady recovery from the impact of the pandemic.
A new meaningful knockout UEFA Nations League round combined with a more compact format of European Qualifiers results in more compelling ties without any increase in the overall number of matches.
The new formats will be as follows:
UEFA Nations League
The UEFA Nations League will be expanded with a new knockout round to be played in March, thereby creating continuity between the group phase ending in November and the finals played in June.
League A group winners and runners-up will participate in home-and-away quarter-finals, with the winners of these ties qualifying for the final four.
The third-ranked teams of League A and the runners-up of League B, as well as the third-ranked teams of League B and the runners-up of League C, will play a home-and-away promotion/relegation play-off.
The expansion of the UEFA Nations League into the International Match Calendar window of March will only concern a selected number of teams and the remaining teams will already be available to start the European Qualifiers.
The new format of the European Qualifiers for UEFA EURO or the FIFA World Cup will be more consolidated, with teams being drawn in 12 groups of four and five teams, consequently revitalising the competition by making it less predictable and more dynamic.
With the traditional home-and-away matches and 'all play all' principles retained, this simple format will offer more competitive groups at all levels.
Teams drawn in groups of five will kick off the qualifiers in March, or in June if they are still competing in the UEFA Nations League quarter-finals, or are involved in promotion/relegation matches. Teams drawn in groups of four will start their campaigns in September.
The group winners of the European Qualifiers will qualify directly for the UEFA EURO or the FIFA World Cup, whereas the second-placed teams will either qualify directly or participate in play-off matches (together with UEFA Nations League teams for qualification to the UEFA EURO). A visual description of the qualification modus and further details on the format can be found here.
No change has been proposed for the UEFA EURO final tournament, which will still feature 24 teams.
The new format will be implemented after UEFA EURO 2024.
Commenting on the revamped competitions, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin said: "The introduction of the UEFA Nations League was a success story, replacing friendly games with more competitive matches. And now, by introducing the new knockout phase, teams will be given even more opportunities to progress while keeping the same number of games within the International Match Calendar.
"The predictability of the European Qualifiers has also been addressed and tackled, with a fresh new format that will offer all the teams an equal chance to qualify for major tournaments.
"The new format promises to bring more excitement to Europe's national team football competitions that continue to grow from strength to strength."