The UEFA EURO 2016 regulations have been published, mapping out the road from the qualifying draw in Nice in February to the final in Paris on 10 July 2016.
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The regulations of the UEFA European Football Championship, 2014–16 competition, have been published on UEFA.com after being approved by the UEFA Executive Committee at its December meeting in Bilbao, Spain.
As hosts, France qualify automatically for the first 24-team final tournament – to be played from 10 June–10 July 2016 – leaving a record field of 53 nations to be drawn into groups of five and six teams when the qualifying draw takes place in Nice on 23 February 2014.
Sides will be seeded for the qualifying draw according to the UEFA national team coefficient rankings, which will be announced along with the draw procedure and final tournament match schedule after the 23/24 January Executive Committee meeting in Nyon.
It is not only the number of places up for grabs that has changed for UEFA EURO 2016; the qualifying schedule has been amended to ensure that fans will have the chance to watch more matches live than ever before on the road to France.
The new 'Week of Football' concept will see games played from Thursday to Tuesday. Kick-off times will be set mainly at 18.00CET and 20.45CET on Saturdays and Sundays and 20.45CET for Thursdays, Fridays, Mondays and Tuesdays. On double-header matchweeks, teams will play on Thursday/Sunday, Friday/Monday or Saturday/Tuesday.
"The fact we spread the European Qualifiers over several days as opposed to all teams playing on the same day will ensure a better visibility for the competition," UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino said. "Each day of the 'Week of Football' will have eight to ten matches as opposed to 20–30 matches on the same day."
European Qualifiers match dates
MD1: 7/8/9 September 2014
MD2: 9/10/11 October 2014
MD3: 12/13/14 October 2014
MD4: 14/15/16 November 2014
MD5: 27/28/29 March 2015
MD6: 12/13/14 June 2015
MD7: 3/4/5 September 2015
MD8: 6/7/8 September 2015
MD9: 8/9/10 October 2015
MD10: 11/12/13 October 2015
The nine group winners, the nine group runners-up and the best third-placed side will qualify directly for the final tournament. The eight remaining third-placed teams will contest play-offs to determine the last four qualifiers for the finals.
Play-off match dates
First legs: 12/13/14 November 2015
Second legs: 15/16/17 November 2015
The draw for the final tournament will be held in Paris on 12 December 2015. The format for the finals, which will feature six groups of four teams, can be found in the regulations.