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.
Lisa Volk is not your average teacher. Not only does she spend much of her time in a classroom full of future professional footballers, she also has designs on a career in acting.
Volk is one of two teachers with the Germany squad at the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in Malta. Part of a 17-person staff, Volk's role is arguably one of the most important – keeping the players' minds on their education despite the almighty distraction of the biggest tournament of their lives and the prospect of a lucrative future in football.
"We always have two teachers – one for languages and one for science – travelling around with the team because the players miss a lot of classes," Volk told UEFA.com. "We don't have regular classes because they all come from different types of schools, so they bring exercises they're missing and we try to work on that individually. It's more like tutoring. Also, whenever there's a particular problem, their teachers from home contact me and tell me what they need to work on.
"The focus here is definitely on soccer and not on school, but I also think it's good that they can think of something else and take their minds off soccer. Maybe they don't know it but I think it helps. Also, we have a responsibility to give them an education.
I really wish that it could work out for everyone, but if it doesn't we need to make sure they have a good education."
While the youngsters in Christian Wück's squad are dreaming of reaching the peak of their sport in years to come, Volk has her own sights set on the big stage – quite literally. Seemingly a woman of many talents, she has majored in English and physical education, and is currently minoring in psychology, but has an altogether different profession in mind.
"I started acting when I did a year abroad in San Francisco and I found out that's what I really want to do," she said. "I still finished my studies and now I just want to try. I'll give it a couple of years and if it doesn't work out I have things to fall back on. I've not had a huge breakthrough yet, but I have had smaller parts; I was on TV, a couple of cinema commercials."
It was at this point that UEFA.com pondered what comes next for an English teacher with a Germany football team who aspires to be an actress? "I'm shooting a feature film in Hamburg after the tournament and I'm really excited about that because I did get the leading role," Volk added. "I wouldn't say this could be the breakthrough, but maybe a big step! It's about the nightlife in Hamburg."
When can we see it? "We're shooting it in June and July and then it usually takes a couple of months until it's done. Then you can come to the premiere if you want to!"
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