NYON, Switzerland (Reuters) - UEFA’s executive committee took several decisions on Friday regarding the Champions League, hosting of Euro 2024 and the inaugural Nations League. * Champions League
UEFA reconfirmed the changes to the Champions League which were announced in August and will apply to the competition for three seasons starting in 2018/19. These include awarding four places each to Europe’s top-ranked leagues - effectively Spain, England, Germany and Italy – and reducing the number of places for lower-ranked countries.
In addition, UEFA decided that all national champions who are knocked out in the Champions League qualifiers will be given a chance to qualify for the Europa League instead.
Currently, only those teams who are eliminated in the third or playoff rounds drop into the Europa League
For the Champions League group stage, it was decided that kickoff times would be staggered with two matches per evening kicking off at 1800 GMT and the other six at 2000. For the knockout stages, all matches will be played at 2000.
* Champions and Europa League finals
The 2016/17 Europa League final will take place in Lyon.
There will be a more open bidding process for future European club finals. Potential hosts for the 2019 finals have until Jan. 27 to bid, with a decision made the following September.
* Euro 2024 hosting
UEFA, outlining the bidding process for hosting the European Championship, said that joint bids of two more countries would be allowed as well as individual bids.
In the case of one or two countries hosting, the respective national teams would qualify directly. However, if three or more countries hosted the tournament, only two of the respective national teams would qualify automatically.
Bidders must express their interest by March 3 and UEFA will confirm the bidders seven days later.
Full bid dossiers must be handed to UEFA by April 27, 2018 and the hosts will be chosen the following September.
* 2018/19 Nations League finals hosting
UEFA announced in 2014 that the inaugural Nations League will be played during the 2018/19 season - the only timeframe confirmed so far for the competition. Under the complicated format, Europe’s 55 national teams will be divided into four leagues, according to UEFA rankings, with promotion and relegation at the end of the competition.
Each league is divided into four groups, with three teams per group in Leagues A and B and four teams per group in Leagues C and D. Teams play each other twice - home and away - making a total of four (A and B) or six (C and D) group games per team.
Four teams in each league - the group winners - are promoted and four - the bottom team in each group - are relegated.
The top four teams in the highest league, known as League A, will play off in a knockout format to determine the champions.
UEFA said the so-called Final Four would be played between June 5-9 and the hosts would be chosen from among the four semi-finalists.
A host nation would need two stadiums with a capacity of at least 30,000 and within 150 km of each other to stage the two semi-finals, third-place match and final.
Reporting by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris