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.
The UEFA European Under-17 Championship elite round kicks off on Friday, with holders Portugal and last season's runners-up Spain both involved in the first group to begin.
Eight groups will be played between Friday 10 March and Tuesday 28 March, deciding the 15 teams to join hosts Croatia in May's finals. Portugal host Group 3 including Spain, whom they beat on penalties in the 2016 final, Greece and Poland. Meanwhile the Faroe Islands and Armenia will make their debuts at this stage in later groups.
Elite round groups
Group 1 (23–28 March): Germany, Turkey*, Finland, Armenia
Group 2 (21–26 March): Russia, Israel, Hungary*, Norway
Group 3 (10–15 March): Spain, Portugal* (holders), Greece, Poland
Group 4 (17–22 March): Scotland*, Switzerland, Serbia, Montenegro
Group 5 (14–19 March): Netherlands*, Italy, Belarus, Belgium
Group 6 (23–28 March): Sweden, France, Austria*, Ukraine
Group 7 (23–28 March): England, Bosnia and Herzegovina*, Slovenia, Czech Republic
Group 8 (15–20 March): Republic of Ireland, Cyprus*, Slovakia, Faroe Islands
• The eight group winners and the seven runners-up with the best records against the sides first and third in their section will join host nation Croatia in the finals from 3 to 19 May, with the draw on 3 April.
• The final tournament will also act as European qualifier for UEFA's five berths at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India, running from 6 to 28 October.
• The Faroe Islands and Armenia feature at this stage for the first time.
• Along with those two teams, Cyprus, Montenegro and Norway are all aiming for U17 finals debuts.
• Previous U17 winners involved: Switzerland (2002), Portugal (2003, 2016), France (2004, 2015), Turkey (2005), Russia (2006, 2013), Spain (2007, 2008), Germany (2009), England (2010, 2014), Netherlands (2011, 2012)
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.