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UEFA looking to shake up international football calendar

The UEFA Executive Committee will meet on Wednesday in Nyon with Men’s national team competition formats post-Euro 2024 high on the agenda.

Aleksander Ceferin during the UEFA Nations League
Niall Carson - PA ImagesDiarioAS

This Wednesday’s UEFA Executive Committee in Nyon will tackle an interesting first agenda item... that of the new national team landscape after Euro 2024. There are two major reforms on the table that will affect the calendar of national teams. The first is the new World Cup qualification, which, from 2026, will have 48 participants and 16 places to Europeans teams instead of the current 12.

UEFA HQ in Nyon.
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There are two options that the Executive Committee are looking at to modify a qualifying phase that in some cases was becoming tedious and with very uneven matches. The alternative, and the proposal that has most weight is to create 12 groups of four or five teams and that the top 12 qualify directly. The other four places would come from playoffs.

Any modification to the path to the 2026 World Cup will be accompanied by a reduction in the number of matches, something that is considered fundamental in the route to USA/Canada and Mexico World Cup. This is a point that all members are agreed on given the number of heavily one sided or ‘dead rubber’ games that have emerged over the years and do little to drive interest with this impacting on general television viewership.

Nations League tweaks

The other big change will come in the Nations League. A new competition calendar will have two more matches for teams with the competition generally seen as a success maong UEFA members. Instead of the top teams qualifying directly for the Final Four, as in the past, a playoff will be created after the group stage that will include the runners-up. The winners of these playoffs will play in the Final Four. The national team matches between the best in Europe are the most attractive and UEFA are very aware of this.

As was previously suggested, there will be no expansion of the European Championship to 32 teams from 2028. Although the feasibility of the initiative have been studied, UEFA’s heavyweights consider that it does not make much sense and that it would reduce the value of the already successful tournament.

The UEFA Nations League trophy on display in Lausanne.
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The UEFA Nations League trophy on display in Lausanne.PHILIPPE DESMAZESAFP

Another key issue to be discussed is the situation regarding Russia, after their failed bid to transfer to the Asian Confederation (AFC) with CAS ruling in favor of UEFA and FIFA in its decision to exclude the Russians from all its competitions. The Russian FA are still negotiating a reinstatement that, seems complicated at the present time.

It’s also expected that the meeting will strip Kazan as the venue for the European Super Cup this summer with the Committee to agree on a new venue.