UEFA Nations League 2018-19
The inaugural season of this competition involved all 55 of the men's national teams affiliated to UEFA. Conceived to replace the majority of "friendly" matches, now widely considered an irrelevance in the modern international fixture list, with competitive games that matched teams of similar rankings. Teams were divided into four leagues each of which was further divided into four groups of three or four. Matches would be played on a home and away basis between September and November with the four group winners from League A contesting the finals the following June.
Promotion and relegation, a novel concept in international football, provided the competitive element for the lower ranked leagues and raised the prospect that a team could rise through the rankings earning fixtures against stronger teams. Equally, the minnows of Europe were now guaranteed matches against teams of similar ability whereas in the European Championship and World Cup qualifiers, they were usually outmatched.
A further innovation was the creation of a "back door" into the 2020 European Championships. Four teams from each league who had not already qualified through the European Championship qualifying competition would contest the play-offs in March 2020 to decide the last four places.
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