England Football Online
Contact Us Page Last Updated 23 January 2018
Nations League Index

The Nations League Explained




1) 55 countries grouped into four leagues for each two-season period, based on ranking, so that you're only playing against teams of a similar quality.
2) Each league divided into four divisions by a draw, so each team plays two or three others, home and away.
3) Promotion and relegation between the leagues.
4) Four divisional winners of the top league go through to a final tournament (semis and final) to become league champions at the end of the first season.
5) Meanwhile, after the divisional games are finished, the European Championship qualifying groups are played between March and November (top two of each qualify).
6) Then, the 16 nations league divisional winners go into the European Championship play-offs, apart from those that have already qualified.
7) They get replaced by the highest placed team below them in their league.

So, to qualify, you can either do it by the traditional route, through the groups, or by winning one of four play-off tournaments (semis and final for each of the four leagues). To get to the play-offs, you have to either:

a) win your division in the league, or
b) finish directly below teams that have already qualified through their

Key differences:
i) All will be competitive fixtures against teams of similar quality, with much fewer opportunities for friendlies.
ii) More than one route to the finals of a major tournament.
iii) An additional trophy to play for in years when there is no major tournament.
iv) The 16 lowest-ranked teams are guaranteed (at least) one place in the European Championship.

It's September, October and November 2018 to complete the league (groups of three or four), so that's four or six games each, either way it covers six match dates. The teams in three-team groups will have two spare match dates for friendlies (if they can find opponents!).

Then groups of five or six for the Euro 2020 qualifiers, so eight or ten games each, covering ten match dates (two each in March, June, September, October and November 2019), though June is also earmarked for the Nations League semi-finals and final (potentially two teams playing four games in June, unless they're in a five-team Euro group?).

Euro 2020 play-offs are in March 2020, only three months before the tournament. So this might be the only time that some teams can arrange friendlies, just before major tournaments. Maybe there'll be less meetings between European nations and those from other continents.