Ever since its inception, many have viewed the UEFA Nations League as somewhat of a pointless venture.
It was seen as a needless addition to what some consider to be an already bloated international football calendar, with the games having very few real consequences when it comes to affecting things such as major tournaments.
Despite this, it has proven to be somewhat of a success thus far. That is especially true for lesser nations, as it allows them to compete against opposition of a similar standard with a tangible goal of promotion to progress towards.
Of course, Ireland's relationship with the competition is somewhat more strained. That is largely down to the team's record in the event, winning only two of our 16 fixtures over three editions.
Despite this, the Boys in Green have somehow managed to avoid relegation to 'League C', the third tier of the competition.
Stephen Kenny aimed for promotion during the 2022 iteration of the event, although Ireland would ultimately finish third in a group consisting of Ukraine, Scotland, and Armenia.
However, some changes to the format starting next year could improve the chance of promotion moving forward.
Ireland could benefit from UEFA Nations League changes
Previously, finishing top of a four team was the only way to earn promotion in the UEFA Nations League. That is no easy task, especially when the nature of the competition means that you will be coming against nations of a similar standard as your own.
However, there are set to be some changes to the format in 2024 that could make it a more realistic possibility.
UEFA are proposing that promotion/relegations play-offs be introduced to the tournament from next year.
This would see second-placed teams from 'League B' take on third-placed teams from 'League A' over a two-legged ties, with the winners earning a place in the top division for the next edition of the competition.
Essentially, this means that nations that only finish second in their groups will still have a chance to earn promotion.
The top placed team in each group will still be promoted, while the bottom placed side will be relegated.
Of course, it would also go the other way. Third-placed teams in 'League B' would face off against second-placed teams in 'League C' to decide on the final places in that division.
Had this process been in place in 2022, Ireland would have been facing into a relegation play-off against one of Luxembourg, Kosovo, or Azerbaijan to keep their place in the second tier.
The 2024/25 UEFA Nations League gets underway in September of next year, with the promotion/relegation play-offs taking place in March of 2025.
Ireland would be promoted if they:
- Finish top of their UEFA Nations League group
- Finish second in their UEFA Nations League group, then defeat a third-placed team from 'League A' in a two-legged play-off
Ireland would be relegated if they:
- Finish bottom of their UEFA Nations League
- Finish third in their UEFA Nations League group, then lose to a second-placed team from 'League C' in a two-legged play-off
It is quite a big change in format.
While this could also potentially hurt Ireland if results do not go their way, Stephen Kenny will no doubt be delighted to have a greater opportunity to achieve promotion during the next edition of the competition.