The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has announced that a “League of Nations” has been approved and will be introduced in 2018 after the World Cup. For the 54 countries involved, the Nations League will become the third major tournament after the World Cup and the European Championship.
The final details are still being ironed out, but the proposed structure would distribute the 54 nations into four divisions, which would be subdivided into four smaller pools. The system would work similarly to domestic leagues around Europe, with a promotion-and-relegation system. The need for such a competition came about after the historical use of international friendlies continued to fall short of providing adequate competition for national teams. The Nations League’s first yield will be producing four qualifying spots for Euro 2020.
“Twenty teams will advance from the qualifying competition to the Euro 2020 finals — which are being played in 13 cities around Europe,” said Gianni Infantino, UEFA’s general secretary. “That leaves four extra slots to be filled and they will come from four teams from the Nations League who have not otherwise qualified.”
While the increased competition will be exciting, especially since it is replacing friendlies, there are some who believe the Nations League could have a negative effect. “It should be clear that there is a difference in a friendly match and a competitive match,” said Tijs Tummers, the secretary of the International Federation of Professional Footballers. “The Nations League will be another prestigious competition. As a consequence, that implies an increase in the workload for the group of top players.”
All things considered, the League of Nations should provide yet another level of competition for the football world to obsess over. And while it is plausible that it could lead to more wear and tear on some of the games’ biggest stars, it opens the doors for unknown players to prove themselves on the biggest stage — a platform that was never really available before now.
VISUAL CONTEXT: THE TOP 20 EUROPEAN NATIONS