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 five third-placed sides with the best record against the leading pair in their groups.
In the elite round, held in early spring, those 31 qualifiers plus the top seed – 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.
UEFA European Under-17 Championship holders the Netherlands will continue their bid for an unprecedented third straight title by welcoming Norway, Italy and Northern Ireland after the elite round was made.
In the draw made by UEFA Youth and Amateur Committee chairman Jim Boyce and the captain of last season's Germany squad, Pascal Itter, seven groups were formed. Perhaps the toughest section is Group 1, where former winners Spain and France meet hosts Croatia and Belgium while three other past champions, England, Russia and Portugal, are in Group 6. Estonia, at this stage for the first time, have home team Germany, Ukraine and Bulgaria in their group.
Only the group winners in March will progress to join hosts Slovakia in the finals from 5 to 17 May 2013, with the draw on 4 April. The top six teams in the tournament will advance to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates from 17 October to 8 November.
Elite round draw
Group 1 (21-26 March): Croatia*, Belgium, Spain, France
Group 2 (25-30 March): Serbia, Republic of Ireland, Georgia, Austria*
Group 3 (26-31 March): Hungary*, Sweden, Finland, Belarus
Group 4 (26-31 March): Germany*, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Estonia
Group 5 (22-27 March): Czech Republic, Switzerland*, Israel, Poland
Group 6 (23-28 March): England*, Slovenia, Portugal, Russia
Group 7 (21-26 March): Norway, Netherlands (holders)*, Italy, Northern Ireland
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