GENEVA (AP)After a slew of mismatched, double-digit wins in qualifying for the Women’s European Championship, UEFA on Thursday announced a more balanced system with three tiers of national teams ahead of Euro 2025 and the 2027 Women’s World Cup.
A 14-0 win for Denmark over Georgia edged Spain’s 13-0 rout of Azerbaijan as the biggest win in Euro 2022 qualifying groups. Those groupings matched the best and the worst 50-plus countries which have developed at different rates.
UEFA overhauled women’s national team soccer in Europe – with a new Nations League competition like European men’s teams have – to find a remedy for lopsided matches that have little sporting or commercial appeal.
There were also double-digit wins for Italy, Germany and Scotland in Euro 2022 qualifying, while France scored 44 goals and conceded none in its eight-game group.
Even at the Euro 2022 finals in July, host England won 8-0 against former world champion Norway.
”The revamped format is interconnected, dynamic and meritocratic, and aims to create a more competitive environment with greater sporting and commercial interest,” UEFA said in a statement.
A three-tier Nations League format, with 16 teams in the top level, will start in the autumn of 2023.
Four winners of the four-team groups in the the top level will advance to a Final Four event. The two finalists will also advance to the 2024 Paris Olympics, joining host France as Europe’s entries.
Nations League rankings, with promotion and relegation between the three tiers, will feed into the Euro 2025 qualifying competition that starts in the European spring of 2024.
Eight countries will qualify directly for the 16-team Euro 2025 by winning or finishing runner-up in the four top-tier groups. Seven more Euro 2025 entries will be decided in playoffs scheduled in the autumn of 2024.
”We have built an open, competitive, and continuous system in which every match will matter, a true reflection of the European sports model,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said. ”I am convinced that this format will help all European national associations.”
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