The UEFA Nations League explained

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Many have been left with confusion as to what the Nations League offers and what happens if we win/lose our games. I will explain all in this article as clearly and as briefly as possible.

  1. There are 55 teams split into Leagues A & B (12 teams each), League C (15 teams) and League D (16 teams). Wales are currently in League B, Group 4.
  2. In League A, the four group winners qualify to play in the Nations League Finals (two semi-finals and one final) in June 2019. The winner is declared UEFA Nations League Champion. (We don’t need to worry too much about this for now).
  3. As well as this, there are play offs for the group winners of League’s A, B, C & D in the same format (two semi-finals and a final). The winner of each qualifies for EURO 2020.
  4. These games will take place in March 2020, after Euro 2020 qualifying is completed in November 2019. The host of the final will be chosen between two of the semi-final pairings for each League.
  5. If the group winner has already qualified for EURO 2020 by means of regular qualification as we know it (starting in March 2019), they will be replaced by the following means (working from League D to A):
  • If the league has a group winner selected for the play-offs, the next best team in the overall ranking from a lower league will be selected.
  • If the league has no group winner available, the best team in the overall ranking in the same group will be selected.

Each group winner of League’s B, C & D get promoted to the league above, whilst finishing bottom of a group in League’s A, B & C results in relegation to the league below. This will only take action for the next “season” of Nations League matches, beginning in September 2020.

So to sum up, even if we fail to qualify for EURO 2020 by regular means of qualifying (March-November 2019), we still have a chance to qualify via the Nations League play-offs, by finishing top of the group ahead of Ireland and Denmark.
Or even finishing second with a high points total would see us compete for the play-offs in League A instead of League B (the likelihood being the vast majority of teams in Group A would have already qualified for EURO 2020). There are no play off matches through the normal means of qualification anymore, only via the Nations League. 

There will be 10 groups of 5 or 6 teams in EURO 2020 qualifying, with the top 2 teams of each group automatically progressing to the tournament finals, taking 20/24 places. The 4 remaining places will be awarded to the winners of the Nations League play offs for League’s A, B, C & D.

To finish with a few examples:

Example 1:

Let’s imagine we won our Nations League group by winning all games in September, October and November, ending with 12 points.

But then we end up finishing 3rd in EURO 2020 qualifying, missing out on standard qualification.

We would then enter the Nations League play offs (March 2020) to play one and/or two of the following teams from League B in the semi-final & final to qualify for EURO 2020 –
Austria, Bosnia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Northern Ireland, Russia, Rep. of Ireland, Slovakia, Sweden, Turkey or Ukraine.

There is a small possibility that if 8 of the above teams have already qualified, we would be in contention of playing the next best ranked team from League C (that did not win their group and did not qualify for EURO 2020) – Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Lithuania, Montenegro, Norway, Romania, Serbia, Scotland or Slovenia.


Example 2:

This time we finish 2nd in our Nations League group with 9 points, and Denmark/Ireland finish top by goals scored. (9 points is more than likely enough to be the next best ranked team in League B).

Again, we end up missing out on EURO 2020 qualifying, so fingers crossed lots of teams in League A have already qualified, therefore giving us a chance of the play offs for League A instead of League B.

Let’s say Belgium won their Nations League A group and already qualified for EURO 2020, leaving the next best ranked team from League B to replace them. We would enter the Nations League play offs (March 2020) to play 2 out of 3 teams from League A that have not already qualified –
(Belgium), Croatia, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain or Switzerland.


Prize Money

League participation fee Group winners
League A €1.5m €1.5m
League B €1m €1m
League C €750k €750k
League D €500k €500k
Nations League Finals (League A only)
Winner €4.5m
Runners-up €3.5m
Third place €2.5m
Fourth place €1.5m

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