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Friday, April 18, 2014

A look the UEFA Nations League

A long overdue post about the new UEFA competition for national teams. There's an in depth article on UEFA's official website.

Please keep in mind the proposed Nations League format is provisional and subject to change.

In the UEFA Nations League, the 54 member associations will be divided into four groups based on coefficient rankings. These groups will then be further divided into playing pools of either three or four teams. The teams in each pool play each other home and away between September and December of the season in question, with the group winners either qualifying for the final four competitions or gaining promotion. The bottom sides face relegation from their division.

In addition, the UEFA Nations League will provide teams with another chance to qualify for the UEFA EURO final tournament.

20 UEFA EURO 2020 places will be decided through the EURO 2020 qualifiers.

The four remaining UEFA EURO 2020 places will be allocated to the winners of play-off matches which will take place in March 2020:

- 16 teams will take part in the play-offs and are grouped four by four. Each group plays for one qualification spot.

- Each of the four Nations League divisions receives four play-off qualification positions to be allocated to each of the four group winners within that division.

- If any winners are already qualified through the European Qualifiers, then their play-off position will be allocated to the next best ranked team of the division in question, taking into account the global ranking within the division, then if necessary to the following division in decreasing order taking into consideration the global ranking of the relevant division.

- The four teams in each division will play two one-off semi-finals and one one-off 'final' to determine each of the four play-off winners.

Most likely, at the EURO 2020 preliminary draw, UEFA will also create the 4 Nations League divisions, using the NT coefficient, made up of:

2014 World Cup (qualifiers and final tournament) - 20% of total weighting
EURO 2016 (qualifiers and final tournament) - 40% of total weighting
2018 World Cup (qualifiers) - 40% of total weighting.

Obviously, we only have the 2014 World Cup qualifiers for now. A lot will change until November 2017 - when the 2018 World Cup qualifiers end.

There's a separation line between the divisions in the table below.

 1 Netherlands         7891
 2 Germany             7861
 3 Belgium             7340
 4 Bosnia-Herzegovina  7241
 5 Spain               7138
 6 Greece              7050
 7 Switzerland         6910
 8 Portugal            6742
 9 England             6671
10 Russia              6550
11 Italy               6500
12 Ukraine             6326
13 France              6260
14 Croatia             5675
15 Romania             5509
16 Austria             5500
17 Sweden              5492
18 Hungary             5410
19 Turkey              5270
20 Denmark             5250
21 Iceland             5134
22 Czech Republic      5040
23 Slovenia            5030
24 Montenegro          5010
25 Serbia              4870
26 Israel              4850
27 Republic of Ireland 4790
28 Poland              4660
29 Bulgaria            4650
30 Slovakia            4610
31 Armenia             4590
32 Norway              4370
33 Finland             4200
34 Albania             4180
34 Lithuania           4180
36 Scotland            4160
37 Moldova             4150
38 Wales               3890
39 Azerbaijan          3760
40 Latvia              3500
41 Northern Ireland    3320
42 FYR Macedonia       3310
43 Estonia             3260
44 Georgia             3163
45 Luxembourg          3010
46 Cyprus              2890
47 Belarus             2888
48 Kazakhstan          2850
49 Malta               2370
50 Liechtenstein       2190
51 Faroe Islands       1950
52 Andorra             1700
53 San Marino          1470
54 Gibraltar              0

I assume teams will be split further into pots for the draw.

Division 1

Pot 1: Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Pot 2: Spain, Greece, Switzerland, Portugal
Pot 3: England, Russia, Italy, Ukraine

Division 2

Pot 1: France, Croatia, Romania, Austria
Pot 2: Sweden, Hungary, Turkey, Denmark
Pot 3: Iceland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Montenegro

Division 3

Pot 1: Serbia, Israel, Republic of Ireland, Poland
Pot 2: Bulgaria, Slovakia, Armenia, Norway
Pot 3: Finland, Albania, Lithuania, Scotland
Pot 4: Moldova, Wales

Division 4

Pot 1: Azerbaijan, Latvia, Northern Ireland, FYR Macedonia
Pot 2: Estonia, Georgia, Luxembourg, Cyprus
Pot 3: Belarus, Kazakhstan, Malta, Liechtenstein
Pot 4: Faroe Islands, Andorra, San Marino, Gibraltar

Remember, each division will award a UEFA EURO 2020 spot. It's very likely the Division 1 spot will go to a Division 2 team. Why? Since there are 20 teams qualifying by the normal route and only 12 teams in Division 1, what are the chances one of them will fail to finish in the top 2 in the preliminaries?

How will FIFA handle Nations League matches? Will they be considered continental qualifiers (multiplier of 2.5) or friendlies?

About me:

Christian, husband, father x 3, programmer, Romanian. Started the blog in March 2007. Quit in April 2018. You can find me on LinkedIn.


  1. Thanks Edgar.

    Maybe they'll use the same multiplier as the FIFA Confederations Cup to promote the UNL ... however this feels inflated ... to keep in line with the other confeds, I'd imagine FIFA will view UNL ties as friendlies (or use a slightly higher multiplier) ... UEFA might consider adding a UNL component to their calculations.

    About the draw at division level ... hopefully it will be completely at random ... or only the top will be seeded and the teams ranked below them go to pot 2 ... but probably the seeding/draw procedure will adhere to the same logic as the qualifiers.

    Once the UNL has started ... I'm guessing (direct) promotion/relegation will be the only way to move from one division to another ... seems like a slippery slope without play-offs for promotion/relegation ... I'd think UEFA likes to prevent worst case scenarios, e.g. Germany relegates while a country with a small media market is promoted.

  2. Sonja, it's stated in UEFA's plans that there will be direct promotion for the group winners to the next higher division and direct relegation for the bottom side in each group to the next lower division, no promotion/relegation play-offs.

    With regard to the multiplier used in the FIFA calculations: the number of non-friendlies a team plays in a four years cycle in qualifiers and final tournaments is at the moment fairly equal for all confederations (around 26 for the top teams). In my opinion it is unfair to other confederations (especially CONMEBOL) if the UNL-matches would be regarded as continental qualifiers with a multiplier of 2.5. It would give an advantage to UEFA's top teams with regard to world cup seeding.
    In the current constellation of things the UNL-matches should be counted as friendlies imho.

    1. From the info available to me I didn't get a clear picture: from UEFA I only saw the press releases which before the update contained the words "face relegation" and later flowcharts with the words "will be relegated" were added ... so I agree that this implies no promotion/relegation play-offs (unless the proposal is changed). Also several group winners would have to compete in 2 play-offs (promotion play-offs and for one of the final 4 EURO2020 berths) ... unsure if both can be scheduled without adding extra dates to the calendar or preventing FAs from negotiating non-UNL friendlies.

      On the other hand I've seen a bit of ink on the subject to gain extra info ... I must add the caveat that these sources can contain errors ... most media do not mention that possibly relegating & promoting sides will enter into play-offs, however some do ... I remembered this article from NOS (Dutch tv):

      "... spelen in 2019 promotie-degradatiewedstrijden tegen winnaars uit de lagere groep." = group winners from the lower division compete in promotion/relegation matches in 2019 (could take place in June alongside the final 4 competition of Division A) ... seeing that the format hasn't been finalized, that UEFA and the FAs from the most lucrative markets could fear the slippery churn of direct promotion/relegation, that promotion/relegation matches generate revenue too, etc. ... I'd guess UEFA will consider promotion/relegation play-offs although at the moment I do agree that the current proposal does not include them.

      PS Sonja is my girlfriend ... my name is Bruno.

  3. I can imagine they getting rid of the UEFA EURO qualifying all together. Every four years, all teams would play.

    54 teams can be arranged in 16 groups (10 of 3; 6 of 4). Group winners to knockout stages: 16, 8, 4, 2.

    Spread the host cities all over UEFA and it is done.


    UEFA Nations League every 2 years would make for those missing games. Maybe with two groups of 6 for D-I and D-II: top 2 qualifying for the finals/promotion; bottom 2 being relegated.

    D-V would have 6 teams.


    For ranking purposes, UNL matches should have the same weight as Euro qualifying matches have.

  4. I think it's unnormal. Who think that Bosnia teams are higher than France?

  5. So a nations league division 4 team can have a playoff spot for Euro 2020 meaning Luxembourg and Malta etc have a great chance of qualifying over a division 1 or 2 team as there playoff will be much easier playing division 4 nations - ludicrous

    1. Yes, it makes no sense. But this problem could be solved if for lower divisions were allocated spots in play-off rounds only, so that the best teams which are not between the favourites would normally be able to qualify by winning them. We'd rather see Russia, Bulgaria or even Montenegro taking part in UEFA Euro than the likes of Malta, Luxembourg and Azerbaijan.

    2. I'd rather make it three divisions instead of four (with four divisions the lower league gets technically too weak) and distribute some spots in play-off rounds for the best teams in League C (also with promotion) and for lowest ranked teams in League B. Reserve a play-off spot for
      League A will be almost always useless because its teams are too strong and should qualify for UEFA Euro easily through the normal route (Euro qualifiers). Only Final Four will be a real contest for those teams.

    3. @Roderick

      I understand your viewpoint but think that rather than radically changing the model to 3 divisions (and making promotion and relegation a lot more complex) it would probably be better to have the 8 League C and League D Group winning teams playoff for 2 spots, maintaining the semi final and final format with either an open draw or League C vs League D locked in for the final playoff round.

      However I suspect that UEFA will be very happy to see one "minnow" team qualify each cycle, with teams making it for the first or second time happening quite often.

    4. Yeah. I thought initially of bigger groups as they could serve straight as qualifiers if there was three divisions but probably that's too much change for them to cope with. If they keep the announced format, I agree with you that the best choice would be arrange play-offs between semi-finalists and finalists of leagues C and D or something like that.

  6. If I understand the regulations regarding the playoffs correctly in case of fewer than 4 teams not already qualified in a divison the berth will go the the next lower divison.

    While this will enhance the chance somewhat for the division as a whole to have a participant at EURO20 it would be very unfortunate for the winner of said lower division. E.g. if I win the 2nd division, I'd rather play in the play-offs as a top seed against three other teams from my division then against three from the higher divison.

    1. @anonymous - I would assume that if for example 9 of the 12 League A teams qualify, and 6 of the League B teams also qualify (along with 5 from League C and zero from League D) then the following would occur

      The 3 League A teams who do not qualify would playoff with the 5th ranked League B team who do not qualify, while the 4 best ranked League B teams who do not qualify will play amongst themselves.

      In reality I would expect any League A team who misses to be playing off against League B and C opposition. Any bottom ranked League B team might still be a reasonable chance of qualifying if all 12 League A teams qualify and the League B cellar dwellars play aginst midranked League C opposition.