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 four third-placed sides with the best record against the leading pair in their groups.
In the elite round, held in early spring, those 30 qualifiers plus the top two seeds – 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.
Danish official Jens Maae has been chosen to referee the 2017 UEFA European Under-17 Championship final on Friday between Spain and England.
The physiotherapist from Silkeborg will be accompanied at NK Varaždin stadium – kick-off 20:00CET – by assistants Mika Lamppu from Finland and Russia's Alexei Vorontcov, while Greek Anastasios Papapetrou will act as the fourth official.
The title decider will be Maae's third assignment as a man in the middle in Croatia, none of which involved either of the finalists, and the biggest of an international career that began when he ascended to the FIFA list in 2014.
"This is a very important tournament for all of us because we're learning from the best observers in the world," Maae told UEFA.com. "It's vital to perform well and continuously improve."
Maae, who has been overseeing top-flight games in his homeland since the beginning of the 2012/13 campaign, describes his appointment as a "big relief and a great honour", adding: "The championship is not only important for the players but also for the referees too. I'm very happy."
The fixture in Varazdin – a city approximately 80km north of Croatian capital Zagreb – will be his 17th UEFA engagement of a season that started on 7 July in San Marino with a UEFA Europa League first qualifying round encounter.
During that time Maae has served in a variety of roles and locations, from handling a UEFA Youth League tie in the Netherlands and working as a fourth official at a European Qualifier in Moldova to being an additional assistant referee at San Siro for a UEFA Europa League group stage game involving Internazionale Milano.
"It's a big advantage to feel the pressure from matches at the highest level," he explained. "I'm lucky to travel with the best referees in Denmark. It's useful to be able to bring that experience into this tournament. Seeing the huge stadiums and feeling the pressure of being at the top will only help you improve."
For now, though, the 35-year-old is concentrating fully on the job in hand: the third meeting of Spain and England in a U17 EURO showpiece, after 2007 and 2010.
"I watched a couple of their matches, live and on television, so I've done my homework," he said. "I've also spoken to my colleagues about them, so I feel well prepared. Ideally, we'll be speaking about a good match that featured a lot of teamwork and cooperation. Hopefully it'll be an entertaining game for the officials, the teams and the spectators."
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