The 2020–21 UEFA Nations League will be the second season of the UEFA Nations League, an international association football competition involving the men's national teams of the 55 member associations of UEFA. The competition will be held from September to November 2020 (league phase), September or October 2021 (Nations League Finals) and March 2022 (relegation play-outs). The defending champions are Portugal.
On 24 September 2019, UEFA announced that a revised format would be used for the 2020–21 edition, the second season of the competition. The 55 UEFA national teams were divided into four leagues, with Leagues A, B and C featuring 16 teams each, divided into four groups of four teams. League D will feature 7 teams divided into two groups, with one containing four teams and the other containing three. The teams were allocated to leagues based on the 2018–19 UEFA Nations League overall ranking. Each team will now play six matches within their group, except for one group in League D that will play four, using the home-and-away round-robin format on double matchdays in September, October and November 2020. This format ensures that for almost all groups, teams in the same group play their last matches at the same time. It also increases the number of total league phase matches from 138 to 162, and minimises the number of friendly matches.
In the top division, League A, teams compete to become the UEFA Nations League champions. The four group winners of League A qualify for the Nations League Finals, which is played in a knockout format consisting of the semi-finals, third place play-off, and final. The semi-final pairings will be determined by means of an open draw. The host country will be selected among the four qualified teams by the UEFA Executive Committee, with the winners of the final crowned as the Nations League champions. The video assistant referee (VAR) system will be used in the Nations League Finals.
Teams also compete for promotion and relegation to a higher or lower league. In Leagues B, C and D, the group winners are promoted, while the last-placed teams of each group in Leagues A and B are relegated. As League C has four groups while League D has only two, the two League C teams that are to be relegated will be determined by play-outs in March 2022. Based on the Nations League overall ranking of the fourth-placed teams, the first-ranked team will face the fourth-ranked team, and the second-ranked team will face the third-ranked team. Two ties will be played over two legs, with each team playing one leg at home (the higher-ranked team will host the second leg). The team that scores more goals on aggregate over the two legs will remain in League C, while the loser will be relegated to League D. If the aggregate score is level, the away goals rule is applied, with extra time played if away goals are also equal. The away goals rule is again applied after extra time, with a penalty shoot-out used to decide the winner if no goals are scored during extra time.
If two or more teams in the same group are equal on points on completion of the league phase, the following tie-breaking criteria are applied:
Higher number of points obtained in the matches played among the teams in question;
Superior goal difference in matches played among the teams in question;
Higher number of goals scored in the matches played among the teams in question;
Higher number of goals scored away from home in the matches played among the teams in question;
If, after having applied criteria 1 to 4, teams still have an equal ranking, criteria 1 to 4 are reapplied exclusively to the matches between the teams in question to determine their final rankings.[a] If this procedure does not lead to a decision, criteria 6 to 10 apply;
Superior goal difference in all group matches;
Higher number of goals scored in all group matches;
Higher number of away goals scored in all group matches;
Higher number of wins in all group matches;
Higher number of away wins in all group matches;
Lower disciplinary points total in all group matches (1 point for a single yellow card, 3 points for a red card as a consequence of two yellow cards, 3 points for a direct red card, 4 points for a yellow card followed by a direct red card).
^When there are two or more teams tied in points, criteria 1 to 4 are applied. After these criteria are applied, they may define the position of some of the teams involved, but not all of them. For example, if there is a three-way tie on points, the application of the first four criteria may only break the tie for one of the teams, leaving the other two teams still tied. In this case, the tiebreaking procedure is resumed, from the beginning, for those teams that are still tied.
Individual league rankings are established according to the following criteria:
Position in the group;
Higher number of points;
Superior goal difference;
Higher number of goals scored;
Higher number of goals scored away from home;
Higher number of wins;
Higher number of wins away from home;
Lower disciplinary points total (1 point for a single yellow card, 3 points for a red card as a consequence of two yellow cards, 3 points for a direct red card, 4 points for a yellow card followed by a direct red card).
In order to rank teams in League D, which is composed of different sized groups, the results against the fourth-placed team in Group D1 are not taken into account for the purposes of comparing teams placed first, second and third in their respective groups.
The ranking of the top 4 teams in League A are determined by their finish in the Nations League Finals:
The Nations League will be partially linked with European qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, with the format confirmed by the UEFA Executive Committee during their meeting in Nyon, Switzerland on 4 December 2019. The qualifying structure will depend on results from the Nations League, although to a lesser degree than the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying play-offs. The ten group winners after the first round (group stage) will qualify directly for the World Cup. Then, the second round (play-offs) will be contested by the ten group runners-up, along with the best two Nations League group winners, based on the Nations League overall ranking, that finished outside the top two of their qualifying group. The play-offs will be split into three play-off paths, played in two single-match knockout rounds (semi-finals and finals, with the home teams to be drawn), from which an additional three teams will also qualify.
Below is the schedule of the 2020–21 UEFA Nations League.
The Nations League Finals, originally scheduled for 2–6 June 2021, will be moved to September or October 2021 following the rescheduling of UEFA Euro 2020 to June and July 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The scheduling of the league phase was reviewed by the UEFA Executive Committee during their meeting on 17 June 2020. At the meeting, UEFA decided to adjust the match schedule for October and November 2020 in order for an additional match to be played in each window. This allows for the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying play-offs, along with the postponed March 2020 international friendlies, to be played on 7–8 October and 11–12 November 2020. The changes to the International Match Calendar for October and November 2020 were approved by the FIFA Council on 25 June 2020.
3–5 September 2020
6–8 September 2020
10–11 October 2020
13–14 October 2020
14–15 November 2020
17–18 November 2020
September or October 2021
Third place play-off
24–25 March 2022
28–29 March 2022
The original fixture list was confirmed by UEFA on 3 March 2020 following the draw. However, due to the change of the league phase calendar, a revised schedule for the October and November 2020 fixtures was released by UEFA on 26 June 2020.
The relegation play-outs of League C are scheduled on the same dates as the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying play-offs. If one or more of the teams due to participate in the relegation play-outs also qualifies for the World Cup qualifying play-offs, the relegation play-outs will be cancelled and the teams in League C ranked 47th and 48th in the Nations League overall ranking will be automatically relegated.
Map showing the leagues each national team will participate in.
All 55 UEFA national teams will enter the competition. Due to the format change of the competition, no teams were actually relegated from the 2018–19 season. In addition to the group winners, the second-placed teams in Leagues C and D, along with the best-ranked third-placed team of League D, were also promoted.
In the 2020–21 access list, UEFA ranked teams based on the 2018–19 Nations League overall ranking, with a slight modification: teams that were originally relegated in the previous season were ranked immediately below teams promoted prior to the format change. The seeding pots for the league phase were based on the access list ranking. The seeding pots, draw procedure and fixture list procedures were confirmed by the UEFA Executive Committee during their meeting in Nyon, Switzerland on 4 December 2019.
Originally promoted in previous season (prior to format change)
Originally relegated in previous season (spared after format change)
The draw for the league phase took place at the Beurs van Berlage Conference Centre in Amsterdam, Netherlands on 3 March 2020, 18:00 CET. While the draw typically has restrictions for prohibited clashes, winter venues and excessive travel, no conditions applied to the draw given the allocation of the teams to both leagues and pots.
The host of the Nations League Finals will be selected from the four qualified teams. The semi-finals pairings will be determined by means of an open draw. For scheduling purposes, the host team is allocated to semi-final 1 as the administrative home team.