UEFA Nations League: An introduction to the world’s newest national soccer competition

Soccer fans, especially in Europe, get ready. A new highly-debated international soccer competition begins on Thursday, September 6. The UEFA Nations League is a competition between the 55 member nations of UEFA and was developed as a means to eliminate "meaningless international friendlies" - a view that has long been shared by many soccer clubs and supporters with the regular club seasons being interrupted with unwelcome international matches as part of the FIFA International Match Calendar.

If your first reaction to this new tournament was similar to mine (WTF!?), then you’re in luck… Here’s everything you need to know about the UEFA Nations League.

What’s the idea of the UEFA Nations League?

International friendlies have been criticized by major soccer nations like Germany, France and Spain because it lacks competitive spirit. The top soccer nations have historically viewed friendlies as a way to introduce new young talent to the national team, which of course makes total sense. However, for players and fans, these friendlies are often boring and irrelevant. Hence, the UEFA Nations League, a passion project of the former UEFA President Michel Platini, which was adopted on March 27, 2014. Similar to the World Cup and the European Championships, the Nations League will be played every two years. The general intent is to replace the regular, unexciting international friendlies with competitive matches. Furthermore, smaller soccer nations that usually have little chances of making it to the big tournaments now have the opportunity to qualify through the Nations League, where they will play against other nations on the same level.

Who’s competing?

UEFA has 55 members, and all of them will compete in the competition. Every nation was divided into 4 “Leagues” with League A being the strongest and League D being the weakest. Each League consists of 4 groups. Prior to the League draw in January, the League-members for each division were determined based on the UEFA Nations ranking following the European World Cup Qualification. The top-12 ranked teams make up Division A, followed by the next 12 in Division B. Division C contains 15 while Division D has 16 teams. The group games will all be played on the six international dates between September and November 2018 and Teams will play 4 or 6 games depending on the size of the group.

  • Matchday 1: Sept. 6-8, 2018
  • Matchday 2: Sept. 9-11, 2018
  • Matchday 3: Oct. 11-13, 2018
  • Matchday 4: Oct. 14-16, 2018
  • Matchday 5: Nov. 15-17, 2018
  • Matchday 6: Nov. 18-20, 2018

What’s at stake?

Division A will play for the title. Each group-winner will advance to the playoffs with the semi-finals and final being played in June 2019. The winner of the final will be crowned the first ever UEFA Nations League champions. Leagues B, C, and D will fight for promotion. The winner of each division moves up to the higher League. On the other hand, the last placed team will get relegated to the lower League. Thus, the next groups for the new (2nd) Nations League tournament in two years will be formed.

The Nations League won’t remove the regular European Championship qualification, which will take place slightly later than usual. However, 4 spots for the European Championship will be decided via the Nations League. Each Division winner (4 per League) will advance to the playoffs. This won’t be the case if the team already qualified itself for the Euros in regular qualification (which will likely happen for many teams in League A). In this case, the next best nation moves up and takes a spot in the playoffs. Hence, League A playoffs could be made up of League B teams. Every League will generate a champion, who will not only gain promotion but will also be qualified for the Euros. Thus, even the weakest teams like Andorra and San Marino have a chance for glory.

Be sure to tune in when the UEFA Nations League kicks off tomorrow!

The DSD must-watch games

  • Germany vs France: 2014 World Cup Champions Germany take on 2018 World Cup Champion France on Thursday, September 6th at 2:45pm ET
  • Czech Republic vs Ukraine: An Eastern European derby sees Czech Republic face Ukraine on Thursday, September 6th at 2:45pm ET
  • Italy vs Poland: After missing out on the World Cup, Italy look to bounce back against Poland this Friday, September 7th at 2:45pm ET.
  • England vs Spain: World Cup semifinalists England host Spain on Saturday, September 8th at 2:45pm ET.

Author: Felix Dalstein

UEFA Nations League