New formats for UEFA men’s national team competitions approved
Wednesday, 25 January 2023
More compelling UEFA Nations League and European Qualifiers to boost excitement without increasing the number of matches
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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 knock-out 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 knock-out 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 3rd-ranked of League A and the runners-up of League B, as well as the 3rd-ranked 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 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 knock-out 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.”
UEFA Super Cup
The UEFA Executive Committee decided to relocate the 2023 UEFA Super Cup from Kazan, Russia, to Athens, Greece. The game will be played at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus on Wednesday 16 August at 21:00 CET (22:00 local time).
2025 UEFA European Under-21 Championship
The Slovak Football Association (SFZ) was appointed to host the 16-team final tournament of the 2025 UEFA European Under-21 Championship. The matches will be played in eight venues in eight different cities across the country in the summer of 2025.
UEFA Return to Play Protocol
Following the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current overall developments around Europe, including the removal of previous measures in place in most domestic competitions, the UEFA Executive Committee has decided to discontinue the application of the UEFA Return to Play Protocol.
In line with the discontinuation of the Protocol, it was further decided to no longer continue to introduce the relevant Annexes related to special rules applicable due to COVID-19, which were included in the UEFA competition regulations, as these rules were linked to the application of the Protocol.
UEFA will nonetheless continue to closely monitor the evolution of the pandemic, and, in case of a significant change in circumstance, will propose appropriate measures in order to ensure the safety of all those concerned and the smooth running of its competitions, including if necessary, re-implementing any relevant obligations and hygiene measures.
The UEFA Executive Committee approved the regulations of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship 2023–25 and the regulations of the 2023–25 UEFA European Women's Championship.
The next UEFA Executive Committee meeting is scheduled for 4 April 2023 – the day before the 47th Ordinary UEFA Congress – in Lisbon, Portugal.