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What is UEFA Nations League? What does it mean for the World Cup?

Here’s everything you need to know about the 2022-23 UEFA Nations League competition.

Croatia v France: UEFA Nations League - League Path Group 1 Photo by Luka Stanzl/Pixsell/MB Media/Getty Images

The UEFA Nations League is a relatively new contest, founded in 2018, and it takes place every two years. 2022 sees the third edition of the competition kicking off in June as 55 countries in Europe will battle it out for the UEFA Nations League title.

The competition consists of three leagues of 16 teams each, with a fourth league made up of just seven teams. Leagues A, B, and C all have 16 teams, and each league saw their teams drawn into groups of four to start. League D has seven teams, which are split into two groups.

The four group winners in League A will advance to the Nations League Finals set to take place in June of 2023, while the group winners in the rest of the leagues will be promoted to a higher league ahead of the 2024-25 Nations League. Each team that finishes last in their respective groups in Leagues A and B will be relegated to the league just below them, while the last-place teams in League C will enter a playoff in March 2024 to decide who moves down to League D.

The tournament was founded as a way to eliminate international friendlies for European teams, entering them into a meaningful competition that will also benefit the ones who perform well ahead of the next European competition. Nations League also provides a way for teams to qualify for the Euro 2024 tournament, although the specific qualification details haven’t yet been released be UEFA.

Nations League also has a link with the FIFA World Cup, with the two best group winners who finished outside of the top two in their qualifying group being entered into a playoff with the ten group runners-up from World Cup qualification. It doesn’t guarantee anyone a berth into the World Cup, but teams can find a pathway there that begins in Nations League play.

Here’s a look at the groups in each league as the UEFA Nations League gets underway with Matchday 2 this week. Note that Russia will not be allowed to play in this edition of Nations League due to sanctions placed on them following the invasion of Ukraine. They will automatically be ranked last in Group B2 and will be relegated to League C ahead of the next edition.

League A

A1: France, Denmark, Croatia, Austria
A2: Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Czech Republic
A3: Italy, Germany, England, Hungary
A4: Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, Wales

League B

B1: Ukraine, Scotland, Republic of Ireland, Armenia
B2: Iceland, Russia, Israel, Albania
B3: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, Romania, Montenegro
B4: Sweden, Norway, Serbia, Slovenia

League C

C1: Turkey, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Faroe Islands
C2: Northern Ireland, Greece, Kosovo, Cyprus
C3: Slovakia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan
C4: Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Georgia, Gibraltar

League D

D1: Liechtenstein, Moldova, Andorra, Latvia
D2: Malta, Estonia, San Marino