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UEFA Nations League revamp: All you need to know

ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno and Shaka Hislop explain how Portugal won the tactical battle in the Nations League final over the Netherlands.
Goncalo Guedes netted the winner as reigning European champions Portugal defeated the Netherlands to win their second title in three years.

The second edition of the UEFA Nations League begins in September 2020. Here's a guide for all you need to know about the competition.

What is the UEFA Nations League?

It is a competition between the 55 member nations of UEFA, created because "UEFA and its associations wanted more sporting meaning in national team football, with associations, coaches, players and supporters increasingly of the opinion that friendly matches are not providing adequate competition for national teams."

So this means there are no more international friendlies?

Yes, international friendlies have now been largely eradicated, save for pre-tournament warm-up matches and rare blank dates for some nations. 

After Euro 2020, the remaining dates that year will be for UEFA Nations League matches. World Cup qualifying then runs through 2021, meaning there will be no friendlies until March 2022. The exception is for some nations in groups of five teams in World Cup qualifying, who will have two spare match dates. 

Who are the UEFA Nations League holders? 

Portugal won the first UEFA Nations League trophy, beating Netherlands 1-0 in the final in June 2019. England finished third after edging Switzerland 6-5 on penalties. 

When is the next UEFA Nations League?

Matchday 1: Sept. 3-5, 2020
Matchday 2: Sept. 6-8, 2020
Matchday 3: Oct. 8-10, 2020
Matchday 4: Oct. 11-13, 2020
Matchday 5: Nov. 12-14, 2020
Matchday 6: Nov, 15-17, 2020

Portugal beat Netherlands in the very first UEFA Nations League final.

What is the format?

The 55 nations are split into four "Leagues." The strongest nations are in League A, and the weakest in League D.

But the format has been changed for 2020.

League A, B and C: Four groups of four nations (16 teams each)
League D: One group of four and one group of three (7)

Teams within each group will play each other home and away.

How has the UEFA Nations League format changed?

In the 2018 edition, Leagues A and B had only 12 teams each, with four groups of three nations. 

In 2020, Leagues A, B and C will all have 16 nations, so four groups of four. This eliminates the need for friendlies for most nations. 

League A: Portugal (holders), Netherlands, England, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Denmark, Sweden, Croatia, Poland, Germany, Iceland

League B: Russia, Austria, Wales, Czech Republic, Scotland, Norway, Serbia, Finland, Slovakia, Turkey, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Israel, Hungary, Romania

League C: Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Georgia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Belarus, Cyprus, Estonia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova

League D: Gibraltar, Faroe Islands, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Malta, San Marino

When is the UEFA Nations League draw?

The draw for the 2020 UEFA Nations League will be held in Amsterdam on March 3. Seeding will likely be based upon the UEFA Nations League ranking from 2019.

What about promotion and relegation?

Yes. The winners of each group in Leagues B, C and D move up, while the nations bottom of Leagues A, B and C drop down for the next edition of the Nations League.

Why weren't Germany relegated for this edition? 

Although Germany, Croatia, Iceland and Poland finished bottom of their League A groups, the decision to expand to 16 nations in a league meant no nations were relegated. The format revamp also meant Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia and Turkey avoided relegation from League B.

Will there actually be UEFA Nations League champions?

Yes. The four group winners from League A will playoff in knockout format (semifinals, third-place match and final) in June 2021. The host nation has yet to be chosen, though it has to be one of the finalists. 

Finals: June 2-6, 2021

The finalists will be drawn into a group of five nations in World Cup qualifying so the June dates can remain free for the Nations League finals.

How will the Nations League affect World Cup qualifying?

The 2020-21 UEFA Nations League will decide the final two teams for the 2022 World Cup playoffs.

Only the 10 group winners in World Cup qualifying will go direct to Qatar 2022.

The 10 group runners-up will enter the playoffs, along with the two best-ranked Nations League teams who do not have a qualification route. 

These 12 teams will be split into three paths of four nations. There will be semifinals and a final in each path to decide the final three qualifiers. 

Will there be a Nations League in the World Cup year?

Yes. There will be four rounds of games in June 2022, and another two in September 2022. The finals will be played in June 2023.

The games will have a direct impact on seeding for qualifying for Euro 2024, and again provide the ranking for the playoffs.

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