ASTANA, Kazakhstan — UEFA’s 54 member countries have voted to create a Nations League competition to start in September 2018.
The competition will replace most continental international friendlies and feed into qualifying playoffs for the 2020 European Championship.
It could be incorporated later into European qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
“This is a very important decision for the future of football at the level of national teams,” UEFA president Michel Platini said Thursday.
Platini has pledged to raise the status and commercial value of international soccer after struggles against competition from popular and lucrative European domestic leagues and UEFA’s own Champions League.
“The friendlies really don’t interest anybody, neither the audience at large, neither the journalists nor the players,” Platini said later at a news conference.
The Nations League tournament format is not finalized yet, although plans include 54 teams ranked in four divisions playing September-November 2018.
The 12 highest-ranked teams would play in four three-team groups in Division A. Those group winners would advance to a “final four” tournament in June 2019. Teams could be promoted or relegated through the divisions.
All 54 teams still would play in traditional Euro 2020 qualifying groups, which would be played March-November 2019.
The Euro 2020 playoffs then would be scheduled in March 2020. That lineup would be decided by Nations League results of teams that did not qualify directly in the top two qualifying group positions.
Platini confirmed that each of the four divisions, including the lowest-ranked, should send one team to Euro 2020. That would offer teams such as the Faeroe Islands, Gibraltar or San Marino a chance to debut at a major event.