As the UEFA European Women’s Under-17 and Under-19 Championships return after the enforced hiatus, we explain why both competitions are critical to the long-term sustainability of the women’s game.
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After two seasons of cancellations to protect players and officials from the pandemic, the 2021/22 UEFA European Women’s Under-19 Championship is back, with the 2021/22 UEFA European Women’s Under-17 Championship set to follow on 23 September.
The U19 tournament will reach a climax at the final tournament staged by the Czech Republic’s national association in Opava, Ostrava, Frýdek-Místek, and Karvina, while Bosnia and Herzegovina will host the U17 finals in Mostar and Sarajevo.
Why are both tournaments so important to UEFA’s long-term strategic goals for women’s football?
UEFA youth competitions contribute directly to the development of both the men’s and the women’s games by offering talented younger players opportunities to play and test their ability at the highest level for their age group. The return of such high-standard competition will give a huge boost to players working their way up in the sport. Less visible, but equally effective, is the ongoing evolution of the competitions' formats.
Transforming women's elite competitions at all levels to ensure they are more competitive is a key priority of UEFA’s Time for Action Women's football strategy – and youth football is no exception. In June 2020, the UEFA Executive Committee approved a new format for the European Women's Under-19 and Under-17 Championships that raises the bar for participating teams.
The decision followed close consultation with internal and external experts, and the UEFA Women’s Football Committee, data analysis as well as a workshop with coaches.
Why will the new format ensure more competitive matches?
For the 2021/22 season, both UEFA women's youth competitions will introduce tried and tested innovations from the senior men’s and women’s game. Teams will be divided according to their UEFA coefficient rankings into two leagues – A and B – over two rounds, with promotion and relegation directly linked to results.
The new format will guarantee elite women’s youth teams a minimum of five or six highly competitive matches per season against similarly ranked teams – each played within pre-existing competition windows.
How else will the changes benefit the long-term development of women’s football in Europe?
In addition to enhancing the competitiveness of the women’s youth football, the new format will accelerate progress against another key goal of UEFA’s vision for women’s football: increasing and retaining the number of young women playing the game.
By opening the door for more national associations to take part in both the U17 and U19 competitions, the format will increase overall participation levels.
Are any other UEFA women’s competitions back in action following the pandemic-enforced stoppage?
UEFA Women's Futsal EURO matches resumed last May, with national teams competing in the preliminary rounds of a competition whose final four tournament will now take place from 24 to 27 March 2022 rather than this year.