Northern Ireland ranked with Republic of Ireland in second tier of new UEFA Nations League
Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have both been ranked in the second tier of UEFA's new Nations League, which will take the place of international friendly matches.
As the teams wanted a more competitive edge to help drive up their world rankings, the tournament will begin in September 2018 and run through to November.
Teams have been split into four pots, or leagues, with NI and RoI in League B along with Austria, Wales, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, Czech Republic and Turkey.
Here are all the leagues:
League A: Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, France, England, Switzerland, Italy, Poland, Iceland, Croatia, Netherlands
League B: Austria, Wales, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Ukraine, Republic of Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Turkey
League C: Hungary, Romania, Scotland, Slovenia, Greece, Serbia, Albania, Norway, Montenegro, Israel, Bulgaria, Finland, Cyprus, Estonia, Lithuania
League D: Azerbaijan, FYR Macedonia, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, Latvia, Faroe Islands, Luxembourg, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Liechtenstein, Malta, Andorra, Kosovo, San Marino, Gibraltar
So how do the fixtures work and can Northern Ireland be promoted?
League B will be split into four groups of three teams and should NI or RoI come top of that mini-group, they will earn promotion to League A. That would also be enough to secure a place in play-offs for UEFA 2020, which will take place between 26–31 March 2020. That means, of course, the two Irish sides will not necessarily meet in the competition.
Finish bottom of the mini-group, though, and it's relegation to League C for the next UEFA Nations League competition, which will be played in 2020.
Belfast Telegraph Digital