European youth football offers a glimpse of the future – and UEFA makes a full contribution to the worldwide drive to produce the stars of tomorrow.
One of the European governing body's main priorities is to promote youth football and to encourage the development of young footballers.
UEFA's two long-running youth competitions are the UEFA European Under-19 Championship and the UEFA European U17 Championship. These serve as a stage on which talented young footballers can test themselves against their peers from across the whole of Europe.
Both competitions were established in 1980 and feature national youth teams from around the continent. They are the direct successors to the International Youth Tournament, which ran from 1948 to 1980.
Each competition runs annually and comprises two phases of qualifying followed by an eight-team final round. They were originally run as U18 and U16 competitions until 2001/02 when a change in player eligibility dates meant they became U17 and U19 events.
Youth talent is also catered for in the women's sector. Young female footballers who perhaps have not yet made the breakthrough to their senior women's national team have been given the opportunity to show their skills on the European stage in the UEFA European Women's U19 Championship, which began life in 1997/98.
A decade later, in 2007/08, UEFA established the second youth competition for young female players, the UEFA European Women's U17 Championship.
• UEFA runs U17 and U19 competitions for both men and women every year.
• All four competitions are staged in an uniform way i.e. two qualifying rounds and a final round with eight teams (except UEFA European Women's U17 Championship which has a final round of four teams).
• Every second year the final round of a championship counts as the qualifying competition for the FIFA World Cup.
• These give young players an opportunity to compete against the best players from other countries – and an early taste of the demands of a final tournament at national-team level.
• A new European Under-19 club competition, the UEFA Youth League, will begin in the 2013/14 season to give young players international competition experience at club level.
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