Contested every four years, the UEFA European Championship has been showcasing the continent's top talent since its inception as the UEFA European Nations Cup in 1960. It consists of a qualifying competition, play-offs and a final tournament.
The qualifying round, featuring a record field of 53 nations, is made up of nine groups of five or six teams, who contest home and away fixtures. The nine group winners, the nine group runners-up and the best third-placed side will qualify directly for the final tournament. The eight remaining third-placed teams will contest play-offs to determine the last four qualifiers for the finals.
For the first time, qualifying takes place under the new 'Week of Football' concept, which sees games played from Thursday to Tuesday. Kick-off times will be set mainly at 18.00CET and 20.45CET on Saturdays and Sundays and 20.45CET for Thursdays, Fridays, Mondays and Tuesdays. On double-header matchweeks, teams will play on Thursday/Sunday, Friday/Monday or Saturday/Tuesday. Each day of the 'Week of Football' will have eight to ten matches.
European Qualifiers match dates
MD1: 7/8/9 September 2014
MD2: 9/10/11 October 2014
MD3: 12/13/14 October 2014
MD4: 14/15/16 November 2014
MD5: 27/28/29 March 2015
MD6: 12/13/14 June 2015
MD7: 3/4/5 September 2015
MD8: 6/7/8 September 2015
MD9: 8/9/10 October 2015
MD10: 11/12/13 October 2015
Play-off match dates
First legs: 12/13/14 November 2015
Second legs: 15/16/17 November 2015
For the first time, 24 sides will contest the UEFA European Championship. The inaugural final tournament in France in 1960 was a four-team affair, expanding to eight in 1980 and doubling in size again in 1996 to 16.
As hosts, France qualify automatically for a tournament that takes place between 10 June and 10 July 2016. They will be joined by 23 qualifiers and the teams will be drawn into groups of four, with the six group winners, six group runners-up and the four best third-placed teams advancing to the round of 16 when it becomes a knockout competition.
The regulations of the UEFA European Football Championship, 2014–16 competition were approved by the UEFA Executive Committee in Bilbao, Spain in December 2013. The regulations were initially drawn up by the UEFA Administration before being submitted to the UEFA National Team Competitions Committee. They were then forwarded upon that committee's approval to the UEFA Executive Committee for ratification.
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