New tournament offers back door to qualification for Euro 2020
UEFA's decision to introduce the brand new Nations League was met with widespread approval and this week it rolls out in force.
The aim of the tournament was to eliminate meaningless friendly matches and replace them with more competitive games for nations between qualifying stages for the World Cup and European Championships.
In order to do that, the 55 Uefa nations were split across four leagues - imaginatively named A, B, C and D - and then divided again into four mini-groups.
Northern Ireland are in League B, along with Wales and the Republic of Ireland, while England are in League A and Scotland in League C.
Each mini-group contains three teams, with each side playing the other two home and away. The normal rules apply, three points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss.
The winners of each mini-group gain promotion to the tier above for the next running of the Nations League, while the bottom side in each group will be relegated to the tier below, meaning each game has severe consequences.
As well as that, each league will have a finals tournament in March 2020 that will be between the four group winners to determine who will be crowned league champions, with the winners of League A named Nations League champions.
And on top of that, the winners of each league will qualify automatically for Euro 2020, meaning it's a back door into the finals should Northern Ireland mess up their qualifying campaign.
So if, for instance, Michael O'Neill's side were to win their mini-group then they would be promoted to League A, and then go into the finals tournament as well to be crowned League B champions.
Should a side that has already qualified for Euro 2020 win one of the four leagues, then that qualifying spot will be given to the side ranked highest in the Fifa World Rankings who has not yet qualified for the finals.