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.
Four years ago, Everton FC's Ross Barkley was helping England to win the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in Liechtenstein – now he is preparing to go to the FIFA World Cup.
It is an ascent to the big time that can only serve to inspire current Young Lions captain Ryan Ledson, another Toffees youngster looking for glory with England manager John Peacock before going on to make the grade at Goodison Park. Ledson sat down with UEFA.com after Thursday's 2-0 loss to the Netherlands, a defeat which means the 2010 winners finished second in Group A and face Portugal in the semi-finals.
On losing to the Dutch …
We were all a bit disappointed not to get the three group stage wins, but we're still in the semi-finals. We've got to pick ourselves up and be ready for a big game on Sunday. It wasn't our greatest performance and I don't think it really mattered that we changed the team. All 18 of us must be good players to be playing for our country. It was just one of those games.
On bouncing back …
It's the first time we've tasted defeat but we've got a great team spirit and we're all together, so I think we can pick ourselves back up. We'll certainly be ready for the Portuguese on Sunday.
My role as captain is massive now – I've got to get all the lads up for the game. But there are a few of us who are leaders – Jonjoe [Kenny], big Joe Gomez, the vice-captain.
On this England squad …
We're a very good squad and John [Peacock] always relates us to that '93 year group, who went on and won it. He says we're as good as them so hopefully we can do the same.
On Everton …
The past two weeks before coming here I was training with the first team every day, which was just unbelievable for me. I was involved in two of the games [on the bench]. I didn't know if I'd be involved in the last day of the season or come here, but luckily enough for the England squad I came here!
On Ross Barkley …
I definitely look up to Ross. When I train with him and when we travel with the first-team squad with them, he's always giving me advice. He tells me to keep going and to keep my feet on the ground. If I can do half as well as he's done, then I'll be doing alright. [Ross going to the World Cup] gives you a bit of confidence as you're following in the same footsteps as them.
On Roberto Martínez …
The gaffer's brilliant. He's always coming to watch the Under-18s and the U21s, or if he can't be there he sends one of his assistants. That gives you a boost and makes you want to play well every game so he notices. Every time you train with him he will always pull you to one side and see how you are. He just tells me to keep doing what I'm doing because I'm going the right way.
On Jonjoe Kenny …
We're best mates on and off the field. I see him every day at training and we're always having a laugh. We go out to eat together, go out shopping together.
On Ryan Ledson …
A leader. I like to talk on the pitch and get the lads up for the game. I like getting on the ball and starting attacks – not necessarily finishing them! I want to get the lads playing because when you've got a front four like ours it's quite easy to give them the ball. [Peacock] wants me to get forward sometimes but when you're under the cosh you need that player to sit in the middle and keep everything steady.
On a possible England-Scotland final …
I think that's what we're all hoping for – we'll just have to see how we both get on.
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