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.
Only France and Spain have qualified for as many UEFA European Under-17 Championships as England but the Three Lions missed out 12 months ago. They hope to put that right on home soil, although fellow former champions Portugal and Russia, plus last season's final-tournament hosts Slovenia, have other ideas in elite round Group 6.
John Peacock is aiming for an eighth qualification in 11 years in charge. Form has been mixed this season – having won all three qualifying round games, his team were beaten by Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands in the Algarve tournament last month. It was actually England's second loss to Portugal this term following a 1-0 home defeat in September. "We are now getting to the crucial end of the season, which we have all been preparing for," Peacock said. "The prize of reaching the finals is a significant one, with the top team qualifying for this important event."
Qualifying round: Estonia 2-0, Wales 1-0, Northern Ireland 3-2 (Group 7 winners)
Key players: Connor Ogilvie (defender, Tottenham Hotspur FC), Bryn Morris (midfielder, Middlesbrough FC), Mason Bennett (forward, Derby County FC)
Slovenia made their finals bow as hosts last summer but are now bidding to get past the elite round for the first time. Borut Jarc's side looked good in September, topping their qualifying round group in Bosnia and Herzegovina without conceding a goal and also beating France. "We know the elite round will be much more competitive," the coach said. "There are three really big football nations waiting for us in England. Unfortunately we have eight players in our team on a yellow card so almost everything will be decided on the first matchday against Russia. But if we play as well as in the qualifying round we can beat anybody."
Qualifying round: Greece 0-0, France 1-0, Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-0 (Group 5 winners)
Key players: Grega Sorčan (goalkeeper, NK Triglav Kranj), Jon Gorenc Stankovič (midfielder, NK Domžale), Marko Krivičič (midfielder, FC Koper), Alen Ožbolt (forward, NK Domžale)
As well as overcoming England at the Algarve tournament, they drew 1-1 with the Netherlands and – after a game they led – Germany. "That was our best display of the tournament," coach Filipe Ramos said. "We played a very attractive brand of football and created opportunities. I think it was a good preparation for the team." Captain Sérgio Ribeiro was named player of the event.
Qualifying round: Iceland 4-2, Malta 2-1, 0-1 Norway (Group 9 runners-up)
Key players: José Postiga (forward, Sporting Clube de Portugal), Sérgio Ribeiro (forward, FC Porto), Macedo (forward, FC Porto), Ruben Neves (midfielder, FC Porto)
Russia have been on their travels and this week limbered up at Manchester City FC, beating that club's U17 side 5-1 on Tuesday. However, defender Sergei Makarov was injured in the January Minsk tournament, while Denis Yakuba is suspended for all three matches and Nikita Chernov banned for the opener against Slovenia.
In 2006, Russia topped an elite round group in England before winning the title in Luxembourg, and coach Dmitri Khomukha is optimistic, saying: "We have only one goal in mind, which is to finish first in the group and qualify for the finals. All the teams have an equal chance of doing that. It will depend on our performance. We have to show our best qualities, which helped us put on strong displays against England and Portugal last year."
Qualifying round: Czech Republic 0-3, Denmark 2-1, Montenegro 3-0 (Group 11 runners-up)
Key players: Anton Mitryushkin (goalkeeper, FC Spartak Moskva), Nikita Chernov (defender, PFC CSKA Moskva), Ramil Sheydaev (forward, FC Zenit St Petersburg)
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