NYON, Switzerland, - Dec 4 (Reuters) - UEFA attempted to explain the apparently inexplicable on Thursday as it unveiled the format for the League of Nations, the latest addition to the already crowded international calendar.
The bafflingly complex event will be run before, after and in conjunction with the qualifying competition for Euro 2020, featuring all 54 European national teams who will be divided into four divisions with promotion and relegation between each. Each division will be sub-divided into separate groups and there will be playoffs with the winners qualifying for Euro 2020, providing they have not already guaranteed a place via the regular qualifying tournament which is sandwiched in between.
"It seems complicated but it will look a lot clearer when you read it," UEFA secretary general Gianni Infantino told reporters.
UEFA has argued that the new system will help smaller nations while still leaving dates open for international friendlies against teams from other continents.
The first part of the tournament will take place between September and November 2018."(The) 54 member associations will be divided into four divisions according to the UEFA coefficient rankings updated after the conclusion of the European qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup," UEFA said.
"In each league, the four group winners will be promoted and the four bottom-placed teams will be relegated for the next competition to be played in 2020.
"The overall UEFA Nations League ranking will determine the composition of the draw pots for the subsequent European Qualifiers."
The regular Euro 2020 qualifiers will be played between March and November 2019, with the teams divided into 10 groups of five or six.
"The winners and runners-up of each group will qualify for the 24-team final tournament, with the remaining four spots allocated via the UEFA Nations League play-offs in March 2020," UEFA said.
"Each league within the UEFA Nations League will be entitled to four play-off spots. If the group winners have already qualified via the European qualifiers, the next best-ranked team(s) within the league will qualify for the play-offs.
"Playoff slots are dropped down to lower leagues if less than four teams remain available for a play-off qualification (waterfall mechanism). So there will be four groups of play-offs, each with an end winner."
In the midst of all that, the four group winners in Nations League A will play a knockout tournament in June 2019, with the winners being declared Nations League champions.
((Editing by Ed Osmond) ((firstname.lastname@example.org)(+44 207 542 7933)(Reuters Messaging: email@example.com)(. Twitter @brianhomewood)))