UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino (Getty)

(WFI) UEFA has given the green light to a Nations League in a bid to turn meaningless international friendlies into more attractive ties.

Starting in September 2018, it becomes the third major competition for UEFA’s 54 member nations after the FIFA World Cup and European Championships.

The new tournament plan was approved at the UEFA Congress in Astana, Kazakhstan today, following unanimous support for a resolution entitled “Resolution on National Team Football 2018-2022”.

The competition, which will feature promotion and relegation between four divisions and replace most international friendlies, also offers four qualifying places for the Euro 2020 tournament that will be hosted by cities across the continent.

Wolfgang Niersbach, chairman of UEFA’s national teams competition committee, said. “This is a big step for national teams in Europe and we hope that fans will support the new format.”

UEFA has yet to finalise the competition format. But the four divisions will each 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, with play-offs for Euro 2020 then taking place in March 2020. UEFA said the schedule meant that national teams “will 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”.

UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said the opportunity for countries to qualify for the four European Championship spots would ensure that the league was competitive.

“Twenty teams will advance from the qualifying competition to the Euro 2020 finals – which are being played in 13 cities around Europe,” he told the UEFA Congress on Thursday.

“That leaves four extra slots to be filled and they will come from four teams from the Nations League who have not otherwise qualified.”

UEFA said the Nations League concept emerged from consultation with its member associations about the future of national team football within the framework of the international match calendar. What emerged from the feedback was that football federations, coaches, players and supporters felt that friendly internationals were “not providing adequate sporting competition”.

“In addition, the competition will help improve the quality and standing of national team football, notably by allowing all nations to play competitively at their level, but also by maintaining the balance between club and international football,” UEFA said in a statement.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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