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The international break is dead, long live the international break!

I got a call from a UK number a couple days ago. That’s not a big deal for some of you, but it is for me because it doesn’t happen a lot. I mean, I have friends in the UK but none of them would call me. I mean what are we, billionaires? Scrooge McElon MacMusk or whatever.

So I picked it up and it was one of the producers for LoveSport Radio in London, the program(me lol amirite, England?) that I’d done some correspondent work for during the World Cup. Apparently England is playing Spain in the Nations League.

Cool? I mean I don’t know much about rugby but I guess it’s cool that Spain is good enough to play England in whatever the hell the nation’s league is.

Look, I didn’t put a lot of thought into the nuances of how UEFA was planning on messing with its stupid international friendly/Euro qualification stuff. It’s just not at the top of my list of things to give a shit about at the moment. The world is on fire. Real Madrid look different. My dog keeps scratching at my couch and at this point I’m honestly worried that he’s going to tear a big hole in it and climb in.

Well, apparently UEFA did a thing (and “did” is intentionally vague because I neither know when this was decided nor do I care to look it up so don’t comment with more information because I just don’t care). They made a new tournament, which is ostensibly supposed to replace the torturous qualification and friendly grind of off-year international football.

It won’t do any of that but who cares, friendlies suck, and even if this dumb tournament consists of glorified friendlies, well, glorified friendlies are better than friendlies, I guess.

The most interesting thing about this tournament BY FAR is its absolutely impenetrable structure. It’s mind numbing. As far as I can tell, and you should probably guess by now that I can’t tell, there are four “groups” that aren’t actually groups because they’re actually tiered leagues. The best teams are in Group A, and the teams that do the best in their Group A games will apparently play some sort of “final” in two years (right? I mean, maybe!).

Here is an infographic that I found that doesn’t explain anything:

Even weirder than the group-leagues-tiers is the fact that this stupid structure includes promotion and relegation. (DO NOT @ ME ABOUT PRO/REL, AMERICANS. It is the single worst soccer-related discussion on social media.)

Each Group creates four sub-groups (!). Each team plays within its sub-group. The winner of the subgroup is promoted, the following edition, to the next Group up. The winners of the four sub-groups in Group A play in The Finals or something. The team that comes in last in each sub-group is relegated. That is how I believe this works.

Here is another graphic which appears to show the teams that make up the sub-groups of Group A. It is in Spanish, but this is a Real Madrid website so you’ll just need to figure it out:

You know your new competition is going to do great when the only thing you get when you Google it are thousands of explainer articles and about 5 trillion charts.

Oh, also it’s tied into both Euro and World Cup qualifying, somehow.

I think that’s what this chart shows:


Stepping back, I think the practical impact on Real Madrid of this Very Serious Tournament will actually be marginally worse than just having the friendlies. In this case, these matches appear to matter in some way. Friendlies really don’t. Sure, people still get hurt playing friendlies, but I’d wager that more people will get hurt playing in these semi-serious matches because they’ll probably be played at something approaching full speed. Which sucks.

But we have to balance that slight uptick in injuries with the vast mountains of money spewing gold coins directly into Gianni Infantino’s gaping maw. And I think you’ll agree that those injuries are a small price to pay if it means that every UEFA executive can afford a new $15,000/month Trump Tower apartment for their cats.

In short: I’ll be on your radio talking about England-Spain tomorrow at about 5:30 PM GMT. Don’t forget to tune in. 558 on your AM dial. If you’re in London.

Oh, also check out this post I did today, because I have column inches I need to fill out and I know Kiyan does that in his post-match reaction columns:

The opinions expressed are the author’s alone and are certainly not those of his employer. This article does not constitute legal advice. Gabe is the Editor-in-Chief emeritus of Managing Madrid and a co-host of the Managing Madrid Podcast; he rides forever, shiny and chrome.

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