• International

UEFA approves Nations League

ESPN staff
March 27, 2014
UEFA president Michel Platini: "It is a very important decision for international football" © PA Photos

England will take part in the new Nations League from September 2018 after UEFA members voted for the tournament to replace most international friendlies.

The 54 member countries of European football's governing body unanimously adopted a four-point resolution to create the competition, which is to feed into qualifying play-offs for the 2020 European Championship and could later be incorporated into qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

UEFA president Michel Platini said at the congress in Kazakhstan that it is "a very important decision for the future of football at the level of national teams".

Alex Horne, the Football Association's general secretary, told Sky Sports News on Thursday morning that it was a "positive" development and he was "excited for both England and the FA." He added that clubs should welcome the news as "a better quality of games makes for a better quality of players".

The precise format of the new competition is yet to be finalised, but UEFA announced: "The concept is for the 54 national teams to be divided into four large divisions according to coefficient rankings.

"Prior to UEFA Euro 2020, each division will be sub-divided into four pools of three or four teams, so each team plays four to six matches between September and November 2018. The final-four competition, involving the four pool group-winners of group A, will start in 2019, whereas play-offs for the UEFA Euro will then take place in March 2020.

"National teams will thus either be competing to become UEFA Nations League champions, or be fighting for promotion and to avoid relegation in their groups, as well as to qualify for Euro play-offs."

The governing body stressed that qualification for the European Championship "remains largely the same" but said qualifiers would begin in March, rather than September, following major tournaments and that "four teams qualify for each final tournament via the UEFA Nations League".

Wolfgang Niersbach, chairman of the National Teams Competition Committee, added: "We accept and respect that all UEFA member associations have agreed to create a new competition. This is a big step for national teams in Europe and we hope that fans will support the new format."

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