2020/21 UEFA Nations League: All you need to know

Draw and match dates, who can face who, how it works, 2022 World Cup qualifying.

Portugal celebrate winning the inaugural UEFA Nations League
VI-Images via Getty Images

What is it?

The second edition of UEFA’s newest national-team competition. Portugal clinched the first title on home turf in 2019, the culmination of a tournament that drew praise from across the continent. The 2020/21 edition will look to build on that success, with a couple of tweaks this time around.

When does it start?

The draw takes place on Tuesday 3 March 2020, with the ceremony getting under way at 18:00 CET in Amsterdam. The League Phase is played out in September, October and November 2020, with the finals in 2021 and relegation play-offs in March 2022 (more on those below).

See how Portugal claimed Nations League glory
See how Portugal claimed Nations League glory

Who can teams face?

The 55 associations have been split into four Leagues according to their position in the UEFA National Team Coefficient Rankings (1–16 in League A, 17–32 in League B, 33-48 in League C, 49–55 in League D). Within each League, teams have been subdivided into two pots (League D) or four (for Leagues A, B and C), again according to the rankings.

League A

Pot 1: Portugal, Netherlands, England, Switzerland
Pot 2: Belgium, France, Spain, Italy
Pot 3: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Denmark, Sweden
Pot 4: Croatia, Poland, Germany, Iceland

League B

Pot 1: Russia, Austria, Wales, Czech Republic
Pot 2: Scotland, Norway, Serbia, Finland
Pot 3: Slovakia, Turkey, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland
Pot 4: Bulgaria, Israel, Hungary, Romania

League C

Pot 1: Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Georgia
Pot 2: North Macedonia, Kosovo, Belarus, Cyprus
Pot 3: Estonia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Luxembourg
Pot 4: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova

League D

Pot 1: Gibraltar, Faroe Islands, Latvia, Liechtenstein
Pot 2: Andorra, Malta, San Marino

2018/19 group stage memorable moments
2018/19 group stage memorable moments

How does the draw work?

The draw starts with League D and Pot 2, which contains three balls, with teams assigned to groups in ascending order from D1 to D2. The draw continues with Pot 1. The draws for the other Leagues follow a similar procedure, though with four pots.

Are there any restrictions?

Not as things stand! There are typically three restrictions placed on draws:

  • Prohibited team clashes (teams who cannot be paired as decided by the UEFA Executive Committee)
  • Winter venue restrictions (groups may include a maximum of two venues with high or medium risk of severe winter conditions)
  • Excessive travel restrictions (teams cannot be paired if travel time is eight hours or more, including flight and 90 minutes of ground operations)

Because of how the Leagues and draw pots have fallen this time, there are currently no potential clashes.

The story behind the UEFA Nations League trophy
The story behind the UEFA Nations League trophy

How do the Leagues work?

Teams play each other home and away, with the four group winners of League A qualifying for the UEFA Nations League Finals in June 2021 which feature semi-finals, a third-place match and the final. The group winners in Leagues B, C and D gain promotion and those who finish bottom of the groups in Leagues A and B will be relegated.

As League C has four groups while League D has only two, the two League C teams to be relegated will be determined by two-leg play-offs in March 2022. If a team due to participate in the play-offs qualifies for the 2022 FIFA World Cup play-offs (more on that below), the League C teams ranked 47th and 48th in the overall UEFA Nations League rankings are automatically relegated.

Where does 2022 World Cup qualifying fit into this?

World Cup qualifying initially remains largely the same, with ten group winners advancing directly to the finals in Qatar. The format to the play-offs has evolved, though, and will now consist of two knockout rounds from which three teams qualify. It will involve the ten group runners-up plus the best two UEFA Nations League group winners (based on their overall UEFA Nations League rankings) who did not directly qualify or reach the play-offs.

When do the matches and finals take place?

UEFA will confirm the 162 League phase fixtures, with dates and kick-off times, as soon as possible after the draw. Kick-off times are 15:00 CET (Saturdays and Sundays only, optional), 18:00 CET and 20:45 CET. Matchweeks are below.

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: 2, 3, 6 June 2021
Relegation play-offs: 24, 25, 28, 29 March 2022