Nations League: A beginner's guide to a new era ...

ENGLAND'S debut in the first UEFA Nations League comes tonight at wembley. Here, The Yorkshire Post provides the lowdown on how the new competition will work:

England manager Gareth Southgate.

What is the thinking behind the Nations League?

A desire to reduce the number of meaningless friendlies and provide teams with more competitive football.

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How does it work?

Europe’s 55 national teams have been split into four leagues, all containing four groups of three teams who face each other home and away. League A, which includes England, contains the highest ranked sides by UEFA and League D the lowest. Countries can be promoted and relegated between the four leagues.

So, if England pip Croatia and Spain to top spot in Group 4, what happens next?

The winners of the group will advance to the Nations League finals along with the other three winners in League A. One of those four countries will be chosen as hosts for a tournament that will take place in June, 2019. Two semi-finals will be held and then the winners will go head-to-head to be crowned the first Nations League champions.

And if England finish last in Group 4 behind Croatia and Spain?

Gareth Southgate’s men will be relegated to League B.

Plenty at stake, then. Any other benefits from doing well in the Nations League?

Certainly. Four teams will qualify for Euro 2020 via the new competition’s play-offs, joining the other 20 who will have to earn their place via the normal qualifying route.

Are thSese play-offs separate to the Nations League finals?

Yes, the play-offs will take place in March, 2020, and feature the four mini-group winners from each of the four Leagues. In the case of League D, for instance, the four group winners will meet in the semi-finals. The overall winner qualifies for Euro 2020. The same format will be played out in Leagues A, B and C.

What if England do not need the play-offs route?

If England win their Nations League group but also finish in the top two of their qualifying group next year, their play-off place will go to the next best Nations League side yet to qualify.