The UEFA European Under-17 Championship consists of three distinct stages: the qualifying round, the elite round and the final tournament. The format changed for 2014/15 with the expansion of the final tournament from eight to 16 teams.
The qualifying round, played in autumn, is made up of 13 groups of four countries playing in one-venue mini-tournaments. The top two from each pool progress alongside the four third-placed sides with the best record against the leading pair in their groups.
In the elite round, held in early spring, those 30 qualifiers plus the top two seeds – given a bye this far – compete in eight mini-tournament groups of four. The group winners and seven runners-up with the best record against the teams first and third in their section advance to the finals to join the hosts.
In the final tournament the contenders are split into four groups of four, with the front two from each proceeding to the knockout phase.
Further details, including the criteria for separating sides that finish level on points in a group, or after 80 minutes in a match, can be found in the official competition regulations.
Liechtenstein had the unique task of organising the UEFA European Under-17 Championship over the last fortnight without the hosts' team taking part, and tournament director Roland Ospelt is delighted with how things went.
Before the elite round decided the qualifiers for the finals, the Liechtenstein Football Association (LFV) announced that it would not be taking up the place reserved for the hosts as a lack of players at U17 level would make their team uncompetitive. Nonetheless, an aggregate attendance of around 20,000 is not bad for a nation whose population is less than double that and Ospelt, also the LFV general secretary, was surprised so many people came.
"It was a challenge, but we have averaged about 1,200 spectators and that was surprise for me because I thought as the Liechtenstein team wasn't playing, we might average 800 or so," Ospelt told UEFA.com. "It was very good for us that Switzerland were in the tournament; unfortunately they went out in the first round but it helped us a lot. There are a lot of people from Spain, Portugal and Turkey living in the area, which helped too."
The LFV did have experience of staging a youth finals before with the 2003 U19 Championship and again things went well on and off the pitch. "It was a really nice tournament," Ospelt said. "I have to complement Judith [Frommelt, in charge of administration]; she did a great job. We didn't have any big incidents; it was just a great tournament."
Usually the teams are based in one or two big hotels but the lack of such accommodation in Liechtenstein meant, unusually, all eight squad had their own dedicated base; an organisation challenge for the LFV. "In Liechtenstein we don't have big hotels and had no choice but to book one hotel per team," Ospelt said. "Some teams really liked it but from a logistical point of view it's a hassle. You don't know how many people they will bring so that was one thing we had to keep in mind. [The teams had] a good time here with no big problems. Overall they are satisfied."
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