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Women's Under-19 EURO: Paving the way for the next generation

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UEFA youth tournaments are a vital part of a player's progression and provide a first chance for European glory, but benefits to women's football go far deeper.

María Valle López of Spain kisses the trophy after the 2022 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship final
María Valle López of Spain kisses the trophy after the 2022 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship final UEFA via Sportsfile

Eight teams are dreaming of lifting the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship trophy on 30 July, but the benefits of the tournament go way beyond the prospect of silverware.

The competition, and likewise the Under-17 edition, provides a platform for Europe's best young players to showcase their skills and gain invaluable experience before tackling the demands of senior international football.

By exposing players to their peers from other nations and their inevitable different playing styles, as well as familiarity with international travel, training camps and a true tournament atmosphere, UEFA is providing the learning experiences required for players to reach their maximum potential.

The likes of Vivianne Miedema, Stina Blackstenius and Marie-Antoinette Katoto all used this competition as a launchpad in recent years, securing their place in European football's consciousness before going on to succeed at the very top of the game.

"International competitions at this stage in your life are crucial because that's when you realise what you must do to make a career out of football," says Nadine Kessler, a WU19 winner with Germany in 2006 and 2007, and now UEFA's managing director of women's football. "You get good international competitive sporting experience, and I loved meeting people from other countries and seeing what's out there."

Graduates of the Women's U19 EURO

Driving the game forward

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.

Using tried and tested innovations from the senior men's and women's qualifying tournaments, since 2021/22 teams have been divided into leagues according to their UEFA coefficient. This guarantees elite women's youth teams a minimum of five or six highly competitive matches per season against similarly ranked teams and is aimed at encouraging young women to keep playing the game.

"The format change shows that UEFA is taking care of more than just the very top level," Kessler says. "Investment is going into getting more girls to play, but also in providing them with a pathway through our youth competitions to then make it as a professional."

Benefits at home

As well as retaining more players, the competition helps to recruit more women and girls to the game.

In addition to providing funds that encourage national associations to invest in facilities, coaching programmes and grassroots initiatives, all of which help to develop the game, UEFA also works with host associations, in this case the Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA), to ensure a lasting legacy after the trophy is lifted.

In 2023, the focus for the legacy will be on reducing drop-out in women's football. This will be accomplished through three initiatives: a teenage festival for the opening match of the WU19 EURO, a limited edition card game called "Drop in, don't drop out," and finally, a school competition for secondary education which will be launched next year.

In summary, this summer's tournament is set to offer the chance for the stars of tomorrow to announce themselves on the European stage, but behind the scenes, everything is in place to ensure the game is set to thrive for years to come. Let's get going!

2022 Women's U19 EURO final highlights: Spain 2-1 Norway

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