Northern Ireland’s Women’s Under-19 and Women’s Under-17 teams have both been drawn in A leagues in the first stage of qualifiers for their respective 2022 UEFA European Championships.
A new format has been introduced for WU19 and WU17 Euro qualifiers which replaces the old qualifying and elite rounds.
The competition still features one-venue mini-tournaments but now includes two leagues (A and B) with promotion and relegation leading to the 2022 finals.
Northern Ireland’s WU19s have been drawn in Group A5 with Switzerland, England and Republic of Ireland. Both the hosts and dates have still to be confirmed but the games will be staged this autumn.
And the WU17s have been drawn in Group A7 along with Spain, Serbia and Iceland. The mini-tournament is set to take place from 24-30 September at Serbia’s National Sports Centre in Belgrade.
Both competitions return after the 2019-20 and 2020-21 editions were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Czech Republic will host the WU19 finals next year, while the WU17 finals will be in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The UEFA Executive Committee said the new competition format will allow for further development of elite youth players as part of its continuous commitment to women’s football.
Under the new format last-placed teams in each League A group mini-tournament will be relegated in Round 1, while the winners of each mini-tournament in League B and best runner-up will be promoted.
In Round 2 - to be played next spring - the seven group winners in League A will qualify for the final tournament.
After Round 2 the winners of mini-tournaments in League B will be promoted and the last-placed teams in League A will be relegated for Round 1 of the next edition of the tournament.
Both Czech Republic and Bosnia and Herzegovina will compete in the two rounds before automatically progressing to the final tournaments as hosts.
Co-efficient rankings have been used to determine the participants in the two leagues.
UEFA said: “The new format will ensure more competitive balance because all teams will play against similarly ranked teams while still giving the opportunity to every team to qualify for every final tournament.
“It also guarantees a minimum of either five or six competitive matches per season, taking place in the already existing competition windows.”