LAUSANNE, Switzerland, Jan 24 (Reuters) - UEFA staged the draw for the inaugural edition of the Nations League on Wednesday - arguably one of the most complex international competitions conceived.
Here is an explanation of how it works:
* The competition is played alongside the Euro 2020 qualifiers which will be staged as usual under the traditional format.
* The Nations League is divided into four divisions, based on the UEFA rankings. Europe’s strongest teams are therefore in the top division, known as League A, and the weakest in League D. Each division is itself divided into four groups.
* League A consists of 12 teams, split into four groups of three. The teams play twice against every other team in their group, home and away, between September and November.
The winners of each group qualify for the Nations League Finals, consisting of two semi-finals, a third place match and a final, which will be played in a single country in June 2019.
The venue will be chosen from one of the four semi-finalists by UEFA in December.
The bottom four teams in each group will be relegated to League B.
* League B also consists of 12 teams and will operate a similar system to League A. The four group winners will be promoted to League A and the bottom team in each group relegated to League C.
* Leagues C and D will use the same format as the top two leagues but with more teams. League C will consist of 15 teams split into one group of three and three groups of four; League D will have four groups of four, and no relegation.
* The competition also offers a back door to Euro 2020 with four places up for grabs, one for each league, to be played in March 2020.
In each league, the four group winners enter a playoff system, consisting of two semi-finals and a final. The ultimate winner will qualify for Euro 2020.
* If a group winner has qualified for Euro 2020 via the regular qualifying competition, their place in the playoffs is taken by the next-best ranked team in their league -- not the second-placed team in the group.
* If a league does have not enough teams to fill all four playoff spots -- because nine or more of its teams have reached Euro 2020 via the regular qualifying competition -- those places will be taken by the highest-ranked teams from the lower leagues who have not yet qualified for the playoffs as group winners. (Compiled by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge)