What is the UEFA Nations League? | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 05.09.2018
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What is the UEFA Nations League?

A heavyweight clash between the last two world champions kicks it off on Thursday, but what exactly is the UEFA Nations League? From the seedings to the qualification places up for grabs, DW explains the new competition.

The Nations League, which will kick off during the current international break, is meant to rejuvenate international football in Europe by giving national teams more meaningful matches, while at the same time reducing the number of friendlies.

That's according to UEFA. However, as always with European football's governing body, it's a bit complicated, so here we answer some the questions that are bound to be raised by the advent of this new compeition:

Who takes part?

In a word, everybody. All 55 UEFA member nations are set to enter the Nations League which is to be held for the first time in the 2018-19 season. The teams are divided into four leagues (A-D) which in turn are split up into four groups of either three or four.

The draw for the inaugural "League Phase" is determined by UEFA's national coefficient rankings as of October 11, 2017. League A includes the top-ranked European nations while League D is made up of the lowest ranked teams.

The setup is similar to a domestic league that has four divisions, and there will be relegation and promotion.

Who will Germany play?

Joachim Löw's side get their campaign up and running against world champions France on Thursday in Munich. After that, Germany travel to Amsterdam on October 13 to face the Netherlands and then to Paris for the away match against the French three days later. The return match against Holland on November 19 in Gelsenkirchen concludes the group phase for the former world champions.

How will the winner be determined?

The winner can only come from League A and will be determined by a mini-tournament played in June, with semifinals, a game for third place and a final.

The teams who come bottom of their group will be relegated, while the group winners from the league below will be promoted. 

How does the Nations League impact on qualifying for the European championship?

Twenty of the 24 teams to take part in Euro 2020 can secure their tickets for the tournament by finishing first or second in the 10 qualifying groups. Qualifying matches will be held after the League Phase of the Nations League is completed.

The final four teams will qualify through playoffs involving the winners of the four Nations League leagues – which are to be held after the regular qualifying matches have been completed. Should any of the league winners have already qualified through qualifying, they are to be replaced in the playoffs by the next-best ranked team in their league.

Fußball UEFA Euro 2020 Logo Vorstellung (Reuters/M. Rehle)

Euro 2020 is to be placed in cities across the continent

When will Nations League matches be played?

The six League Phase matchdays are to take place between September and November, with the teams in groups of three playing on just four of the matchdays. The finals are to be held in June 2019 and the Euro 2020 playoffs in March 2020.

Will this mean jamming even more matches into an already packed football calendar?

No. UEFA says the Nations League will be played out during the existing international windows and reduce the number of meaningless friendlies. 

Isn't this just another cash grab on the part of UEFA?

No again, according to UEFA, which states on its website that "finances are not a driver for the new competition". 

In the next sentence though, it states that "the competition will have the same centralized media rights as have recently been introduced for all European Qualifiers so associations will have even more stability in their income".

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