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The 2018–19 UEFA Nations League will be the inaugural season of the UEFA Nations League, involving the men's national teams of the 55 member associations of UEFA. The competition, which will be held from September to November 2018 (group stage) and June 2019 (Nations League Finals), will also serve as part of the qualification process for UEFA Euro 2020, awarding berths in the play-offs which will decide four of the twenty-four final tournament slots.
The format and schedule of the UEFA Nations League was formally approved by the UEFA Executive Committee on 4 December 2014. According to the approved format, the 55 UEFA national teams will be divided into four divisions (called "Leagues"): 12 teams in League A, 12 teams in League B, 15 teams in League C, and 16 teams in League D. For the 2018–19 UEFA Nations League, teams will be divided according to their UEFA national team coefficients after the conclusion of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers (play-off results will not be included), with the highest-ranked teams playing in League A, etc. Each division will be divided into four groups of three or four teams, so each team will play four or six matches within their group (using the home-and-away round-robin format), on double matchdays in September, October and November 2018. In the top division League A, teams will compete to become the UEFA Nations League champions. The four group winners of League A will qualify for the Nations League Finals in June 2019, which will be played in a knockout format, consisting of the semi-finals, third place play-off, and final. The semi-final pairings, along with the administrative home teams for the third place play-off and final, are determined by means of a draw. The host country will be selected among the four qualified teams in December 2018, with the winners of the final crowned as the Nations League champions. Teams will also compete for promotion and relegation to a higher or lower division. In each division, the four group winners (except League A) will be promoted, while the last-placed teams of each group (except League D) will be relegated; however, in League C, due to different sized groups, the three fourth-placed teams and the lowest-ranking third-placed team will be relegated. The 2018–19 UEFA Nations League will be linked with UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying, providing teams another chance to qualify for UEFA Euro 2020:
The main qualifying process will now begin in March 2019 instead of immediately in September 2018 following the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and will end in November 2019. The format will remain largely the same, although only 20 of the 24 spots for the finals tournament will be decided from the main qualifying process, leaving four spots still to be decided. The 55 teams will be drawn into 10 groups after the completion of the UEFA Nations League (five groups of five teams and five groups of six teams, with the four UEFA Nations League Finals participants guaranteed to be drawn into groups of five teams), with the top two teams in each group qualifying. The draw seeding will be based on the overall rankings of the Nations League. The qualifiers will be played on double matchdays in March, June, September, October and November 2019. Next, a total of 16 teams will participate in the qualifying play-offs, taking place in March 2020, offering a second chance to qualify for UEFA Euro 2020. The 16 teams will be selected based off their performance in the UEFA Nations League. The 16 teams will be divided into four paths, each containing four teams, with one team from each path qualifying for the final tournament. Each league will have its own play-off path if at least four teams are available. The Nations League group winners will automatically qualify for the play-off path of their league. If the group winners have already qualified through the classic qualifying group stage, they will be replaced by the next best ranked teams in the same league. However, if there are not enough teams in the same league, then the group winners will be replaced by the next best team in the overall ranking, but group winners cannot face teams from a higher league. A bottom up process from League D to A is used to select the 16 teams which will compete in the playoffs. First, all available group winners are selected. Then, if a group winner has already qualified, they will be replaced by the next best team in the same league. If there are not enough teams in a given league, then if there is a group winner, the best ranked team of a lower league will be selected. If there is no group winner available in the league, then the best team in the overall ranking will be selected. A bottom up process from League D to A is also used to form the four play-off paths. A path is formed with four teams from the same league. If there are more than four teams qualified for the play-offs in a given league, then a draw will occur to determine which teams will participate in the play-off path of that league. The remaining teams will be drawn into paths with teams of higher leagues. This process ensures that the group winners do not have to compete with teams from a higher league. A draw will take place on 22 November 2019 to allocate the teams which did not win their group. Each play-off path will feature two single-leg semi-finals, and one single-leg final. The best-ranked team will host the fourth-ranked team, and the second-ranked team will host the third-ranked team. The host of the final will be decided by a draw, with semi-final winner 1 or 2 hosting the final. The four play-off path winners will join the 20 teams which have already qualified for UEFA Euro 2020. Basically, here's their explainer!
The draw for the group stage is scheduled to take place in Lausanne, Switzerland on 24 January 2018, 12:00 CET. For political reasons, Armenia and Azerbaijan (due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict), as well as Russia and Ukraine (due to the Russian military intervention in Ukraine), cannot be drawn in the same group. Due to winter venue restrictions, a group can contain a maximum of two of the following teams: Norway, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania. Due to excessive travel restrictions, any group can contain a maximum of one of the following pairs: Andorra and Kazakhstan, Faroe Islands and Kazakhstan, Gibraltar and Kazakhstan, Gibraltar and Azerbaijan.
GROUP 1: NETHERLANDS, FRANCE, GERMANY
GROUP 2: ICELAND, SWITZERLAND, BELGIUM
GROUP 3: POLAND, ITALY, PORTUGAL
GROUP 4: CROATIA, ENGLAND, SPAIN
GROUP 1: CZECH REPUBLIC, UKRAINE, SLOVAKIA
GROUP 2: TURKEY, SWEDEN, RUSSIA
GROUP 3: NORTHERN IRELAND, BOSNIA & HERZOGOVINA, AUSTRIA
GROUP 4: DENMARK, REPUBLIC OF IRELAND, WALES
GROUP 1: ISRAEL, ALBANIA, SCOTLAND
GROUP 2: ESTONIA, FINLAND, GREECE, HUNGARY
GROUP 3: CYPRUS, BULGARIA, NORWAY, SLOVENIA
GROUP 4: LITHUANIA, MONTENEGRO, SERBIA, ROMANIA
GROUP 1: ANDORRA, KAZAKHSTAN, LATVIA, GEORGIA
GROUP 2: SAN MARINO, MOLDOVA, LUXEMBOURG, BELARUS
GROUP 3: KOSOVO, MALTA, FAROE ISLANDS, AZERBAIJAN
GROUP 4: GIBRALTAR, LIECHTENSTEIN, ARMENIA, MACEDONIA
The group stage fixtures will take place in September and November 2018.
Matchday 1: Sep 6-8
Matchday 2: Sept 9-11
Matchday 3: Oct 11-13
Matchday 4: Oct 14-16
Matchday 5: Nov 15-17
Matchday 6: Nov 18-20
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