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ESPN FC  By Dale Johnson

Germany, Portugal, Belgium and Spain top seeds for UEFA Nations League

England will be in Pot 2 for the group stage draw of the 2018 UEFA Nations League draw, which takes place on Jan. 24.

Germany, Portugal, Belgium and Spain are the top seeds and cannot play each other, with France, England, Switzerland and Italy in pot 2. The final pot of League A contains Poland, Iceland, Croatia and Netherlands.

The competition, which will begin in September 2018, will run alongside qualifying for the European Championship and has been introduced to provide more competitive and meaningful international matches for countries.

The top 12 nations, based on the 2017 UEFA National Ranking, are in League A and will be drawn into four groups of three and play each other home and away on the international dates in September, October and November next year. The four group winners will go forward to UEFA Nations League finals in June 2019 to play for the overall title.

The other 43 European nations will be spread across three other Leagues B, C and D -- the group winners will be promoted to replace the nations finishing bottom of Leagues A, B and C for the next Nations League which begins in September 2020.

Wales just missed out on League A, edged out by Netherlands, with Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland also in League B with them. Scotland are in League C.

Sebastian Rudy
Germany will be the top-seeded nation for the Nations League.

The Nations League group stage will take place when Europe would ordinarily begin qualifying for the next European Championship. Instead that will be delayed, and start in March 2019 and end in November of that year -- the qualifying draw does not take place until December 2018.

UEFA hopes it will create more competition away from often one-sided qualifying programmes, and give smaller nations a chance to be truly competitive against each other.

There will be an extra chance to qualify for Euro 2020 through the Nations League. The highest placed team in each group that has not qualified for the finals will enter four-team playoff from each of the four leagues in March 2020, and the winners will go to the finals -- effectively replacing the playoffs between third-placed teams in qualifying for Euro 2016.

There will still be dates in the calendar for the top nations to play international friendlies, with Nations League games taking up four of the six available international match dates at the end of next year.

League and draw pots in full. Only one team from each pot will be in a group from each League

LEAGUE A

Pot 1: Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Spain
Pot 2: France, England, Switzerland, Italy
Pot 3: Poland, Iceland, Croatia, Netherlands

LEAGUE B

Pot 1: Austria, Wales, Russia, Slovakia
Pot 2: Sweden, Ukraine, Republic of Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Pot 3: Northern Ireland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Turkey

LEAGUE C

Pot 1: Hungary, Romania, Scotland, Slovenia
Pot 2: Greece, Serbia, Albania, Norway
Pot 3: Montenegro, Israel, Bulgaria, Finland
Pot 4: Cyprus, Estonia, Lithuania

LEAGUE D

Pot 1: Azerbaijan, FYR Macedonia, Belarus, Georgia
Pot 2: Armenia, Latvia, Faroe Islands, Luxembourg
Pot 3: Kazakhstan, Moldova, Liechtenstein, Malta
Pot 4: Andorra, Kosovo, San Marino, Gibraltar

Dale Johnson has been an editor and journalist at ESPN for 18 years. You can follow him on Twitter @dalejohnsonESPN.

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