Tuesday, 23 Jul 2024

UEFA Nations League Stadiums & Stats

UEFA Nations League

Almost since the moment that international football was invented, there have been complaints about the way that the preparatory games for tournaments like the World Cup and European Championships interfered with the domestic football calendar.

Rather than confront those complaints in any meaningful manner, UEFA decided to come up with a third tournament that has been given the moniker of the UEFA Nations League. It is not a tournament in the same way as the other two are, instead essentially being just a more organized way of playing international friendlies – although it does offer an alternative route to Euro and World Cup qualification, as Scotland found out to their benefit in 2020 and Wales in 2022.

In this article, we’ll tell you how the UEFA Nations League came about, including the moment that it was first revealed that a third international tournament was being considered by the governing body of European football. We’ll tell you how teams qualify for it, how it works, and any other information that we think is readily available. Of course, we will always provide you with all the details about the major stadiums involved and all the fixtures along the way.

UEFA Nations League Stadiums

Group Stages

  • League A
  • League B
  • League C
  • League D

Note: Russia is currently banned from the Nations League. League D previously had 7 teams, but now it has 6 until Russia is reinstated.

Tournament Format

Qualification

The short answer to the question of qualification for the tournament is that there is no need to qualify as such. After all, the hope is that this competition will replace the friendlies that are currently played according to FIFA’s International Match Calendar.

As such, all fifty-five national teams from UEFA’s associate members will be eligible to take part.

One thing that is worth noting is that the tournament will be linked to qualifying for the UEFA European Championships and World Cup. That means that teams that don’t qualify for the Euros or World Cup via traditional means will have the chance to do so via the UEFA Nations League. That’s not something that’s been met with universal approval, however.

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It’s felt that it will allow weaker teams to qualify who might not otherwise be able to do so, thereby cheapening the quality of both competitions.

The Group Stages

The competition sees the fifty-five national sides that are part of UEFA split into four different Leagues. League A is the top-seeded division and features sixteen teams, which is the same number as play in League B and League C. League D now has six sides in it. Those Leagues are then split into four groups (2 groups for League D), with four teams in each group with the exception of League D groups that have 3 teams in each. Each team in a group plays each other home and away.

Quarter-Finals and Promotion / Relegation Play-Offs

For 2024/25, the format changed again. Now the four teams that win the League A groups do not progress directly to the semi-finals the following June. Instead, the group winners play the group runners-up in a two-legged home and away quarter-final the following March. The group winners playing the second legs at home. This will define the four teams that progress to the finals proper.

The teams that win the groups in League B, C & D will still be automatically promoted, and the teams at the bottom of the groups in Leagues A and B will still be automatically relegated (as England were in 2023). As League D only has two groups, only the worst two teams from League C are automatically relegated – this is changed from the 2022/23 edition where ‘play-outs’ were held to decide if teams were relegated or not.

The new promotion / relegation tournament in March will see third-placed teams from League A & B play group runners-up from Leagues B & C in a two-legged play-off, as with the Quarter-Finals. The winner of that match either being promoted (if runners-up) or staying in the league (if third-placed).

The Nations League Finals

Never an organization to shy away from complicating things unnecessarily, UEFA then decided to allow the winners of quarter-finals to compete against others to become the UEFA Nations League Champion.

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They’ll play in two semi-finals and then a final in order to determine this in June the following year. A play-off is held for third place.

The host for the finals is chosen from among the four semi-finalists. For the inaugural tournament in 2018-19, Portugal was chosen as the host nation, for 2021 Italy were chosen as group A1 winners in each instance.

In 2022/23, all nations in group A4 expressed an interest in hosting, and as it was The Netherlands that made it to the finals, they hosted.

Prize Money

Teams receive a base fee for taking part, with each group winner then receiving an additional bonus equal to the league fee.

The winner of the Nations League finals will receive a trophy and additional prize money, and there is also a third-place play-off with monetary rewards.

World Cup and Euro Qualification

One of the biggest draws for smaller European teams playing in the Nations League is the ability for some teams to earn Euro and World Cup qualifying spots.

There are play-offs for each league A-D (or A-C if there are only 3 places), each group winner automatically gaining a spot. If those teams have already qualified for the Euros through the main path, then that place will be given to the next-ranked team, and so on. If fewer than four teams in a league remain unqualified, then the play-off spots drop to the next league.

Once 16 unqualified teams (or 12 teams if only 3 places available) have been selected into four groups, there will then be a play-off the following spring. Each group winner will gain one of the remaining European Championship spots.

A similar process took place for European qualification to the World Cup 2022 in Qatar, with the two best Nations League teams that have not already qualified joining the 10 World Cup group runners-up in a play-off.

For the 2026 World Cup, UEFA now gets 16 spots in the finals. Twelve of those berths are taken up by the group winners from the World Cup qualification groups, and the 12 runners-up join the four best teams from the Nations League in a play-off round for the remaining four spots.

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These 16 teams are divided into four play-off paths that consist of semi-finals and a final. The four winners in the four paths will join the other 12 at the World Cup.

FAQs

How did the UEFA Nations League start?

The idea of a UEFA Nations League was first discussed in 2011 and gained momentum over the following years. It was officially adopted by UEFA at the XXXVIII Ordinary UEFA Congress in 2014.

What do people say about the UEFA Nations League?

Opinions about the UEFA Nations League vary. Some see it as an opportunity for smaller nations to compete against larger ones, while others worry that it cheapens the quality of traditional competitions.

What is the UEFA Nations League trophy like?

The UEFA Nations League trophy is made of sterling silver and features a flag representing the fifty-five participating nations. The trophy’s design was inspired by the tournament’s logo.

Is there an anthem for the UEFA Nations League?

Yes, the UEFA Nations League has its own anthem, which was composed by a philharmonic orchestra and includes electronic music elements.

When does the UEFA Nations League take place?

The group stages of the UEFA Nations League are played from September to November in even years, while the Nations League Finals take place in March and June of odd-numbered years.

Summary

The UEFA Nations League offers a new and organized way for international teams to compete. With four leagues, group stages, quarter-finals, and promotion/relegation play-offs, the tournament provides an alternative route to Euro and World Cup qualification. Smaller nations have the opportunity to play against stronger opponents, while the prize money and the chance to earn qualifying spots for major tournaments add further incentives. The UEFA Nations League has been met with both approval and criticism, but its impact on international football cannot be denied.