The UEFA Executive Committee today approved the expansion of the final tournament of the UEFA European Championship from 16 to 24 teams, as from the 2016 edition.
This historic decision gives middle-ranked countries a much greater chance to qualify for the finals. The traditional qualifying structure, with groups of six and five teams, will remain in place.
"One can give a considerable number of reasons [for a 24-team EURO]," said UEFA President Michel Platini. "I'm sure that it will not change the technical level. In addition to the 16 [current] qualifiers, there are eight other teams just as good."
"It's a natural development in European football in my view, when we see the popularity of national-team competitions," UEFA General Secretary David Taylor told uefa.com. "National-team football is unbeatable in terms of TV rankings and the interest that it generates – why not increase the number of teams?
"National associations will benefit, and football will benefit," he added. "One thing we have also seen which gives us comfort is that there are now at least 24 teams of the required strength to compete effectively in a final tournament. Perhaps that wasn't the case 20 years ago, but we have the numbers to make a 24-team tournament a success in Europe."
The EURO final-stage field has gradually increased since 1976, when four countries took part. Eight teams were present in Italy in 1980, and the 16-team final round was introduced for the tournament in England in 1996.
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