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New Nations League format for U19 EURO: how it works

A new structure incorporates UEFA Nations League-style groups in a two-season cycle.

New Nations League format for U19 EURO: how it works
New Nations League format for U19 EURO: how it works ©Sportsfile

The UEFA European Under-19 Championship is to relaunch with a new structure incorporating UEFA Nations League-style groups in a two-season cycle.

What would have been the 2023/24 season will instead become the 2022–24 competition, ending, as in the previous format, with an eight-team final tournament. Players will begin in the competition while still in the U18 category so will be in the U19 category by the time of the final tournament (for 2022–24, players born after 1 January 2005).

The decision to test out the new structure was decided by the UEFA Executive Committee on 29 May 2019 and if successful the system could be applied to the U17 EURO.

The original plan to introduce the new format for the edition finishing in the summer of 2022 was postponed. Consequently, there will be 2021/22 and 2022/23 UEFA European Under-19 Championships according to the current system.

How the structure works

Competition rounds

  • Qualifying phase: Rounds 1, 2, 3 and 4
  • Final tournament: 8 teams  1 host, 7 qualifiers

Qualifying phase

  • All matches are played as one-venue mini-tournaments of four or three teams, with hosts appointed after each draw.
  • All entrants including the finals host will be divided into three leagues (A, B & C) based on the U19 coefficient rankings.

Which league plays in which qualifying round?
League A plays all four rounds
League B plays three rounds
League C plays two rounds

How many teams in each league?
League A: 20 teams (5 groups of 4 teams)
League B: 16 teams (4 groups of 4 teams)
League C: up to 19 teams (groups of 4 or 3 teams depending on level of entries)

  • As in the UEFA Nations League, teams from each league will be drawn into groups before each round.

Rounds 1 & 2 (Leagues A, B and C):

Promotion

  • From League B to A: the four group winners plus best runner-up
  • From League C to B: all group winners plus runners-up depending on number of entries

Relegation

  • From League A to B: the five teams ranked fourth in their groups
  • From League B to C: the four teams ranked fourth in their groups plus lowest-ranked third-placed teams

Teams in League C after round 2 play no further part, while finals hosts also play no further part until the final tournament.

If the finals hosts are in Leagues A or B after round 2, an additional team will be promoted from Leagues B or C respectively to take their place.

Round 3 (Leagues A & B):

Promotion

  • From League B to A: the four group winners plus best runner-up

Relegation

  • From League A to B: the five teams ranked fourth in their groups

Teams in League B after round 3 play no further part.

Round 4 (League A only):

Qualification for final tournament

  • The five group winners and two best runners-up join the hosts in the final tournament.

Final tournament:

  • As currently, the teams are drawn into two groups of four with the top two from each progressing to the semi-finals. U19 EURO final tournaments in even-numbered years act as qualifiers for the following year's FIFA U-20 World Cup (i.e. the 2024 U19 EURO would still lead to the 2025 U-20 World Cup regardless of format).