Meet the new FIFA, same as the old FIFA! Blatter may be gone, but Infantino and his band of cronies over at the UEFA office are planning to shake things up like never before.
Introducing UEFA’s 55-team tournament dubbed the Nations League.
In short, it’s a tournament six years in the making designed to reduce the number of international friendlies that we’ve come to know and hate. The Nations League group stage matches will take place on six days spread across September, October and November. Final Four pairings will resume the following summer when domestic competitions have ended, and it’ll all be broadcast on Sky Sports.
This is how the tournament will work via the UEFA website:
“League allocation will be determined by each country’s UEFA ranking in November 2017. The leagues will be tiered with the highest ranking nations in League A, the next highest in League B and so on.
Each league will then be split into groups, made up of three or four teams.
At the end of each round of fixtures, four teams will be relegated to the league below and four teams will be promoted to the league above. They will play at their new league level in the next version of the competition, which will start in 2020.
The winners from each of the four groups in League A will compete in the ‘Final Four’ in the summer of 2019.
The four group winners from League A will compete in semi-finals (one leg only) and then a final with the winner being crowned Nations League champion.”
And if you’re wondering about this throwing a wrench into UEFA Euro qualification, then look no further for an explanation of how it won’t do any such thing — according to UEFA, that is:
“The changes to UEFA EURO qualifying will make it more streamlined. The equation is now simple: 10 groups with the top two teams in each group qualifying automatically, and the other 4 places being awarded to UEFA Nations League play-off winners.
The UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying draw will be made after the completion of the UEFA Nations League and allow for the four UEFA Nations League Final Four participants to be drawn into groups of five teams
But the key principle of the qualifiers remains: that every team can play every team.”
According to UEFA, these changes are being implemented because “National associations and coaches, in consultations with UEFA, revealed that they feel that friendly internationals are not providing adequate sporting competition.” But don’t think for one second that international friendlies have been abolished forever.
“While the UEFA Nations League will replace most friendly internationals, there will still be space in the calendar for friendlies, especially for top teams who may want to face opposition from outside Europe as they will be in groups of three teams.”
UEFA goes on to say that they believe supporters will be open to the idea because “most friendlies fail to deliver competitive and meaningful football.” What’s more, they’ll now be able to “see their teams play in more competitive matches, take part in a new competition and get a second chance to qualify for the major tournaments.” And while they make it a point to say that finances are not a motivating factor behind the new tournament, you can bet your bottom dollar that the development of the game is not the true inspiration for this tournament. If FIFA, and subsequently every confederation of football under its umbrella, weren’t the biggest mob of organized crime in the world then the financial incentives could be thrown by the wayside.
But we know better.
That said, it will be interesting to see whether this does aid the modern game and if developing football nations will benefit from the new tournament.