The countdown to Northern Ireland’s hosting of the UEFA Men’s Under-19 European Championship 2024 has begun.
The eight-team U19 Euros will get under way on 15 July next year.
Venues for group matches have still to be confirmed, however the final is scheduled to be staged at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park in Belfast on 28 July.
As hosts Northern Ireland will qualify directly for the finals, which will also act as qualifiers for the FIFA U20 World Cup in 2025.
The qualifiers for next year’s event will get under way in the autumn with the qualifying round. It will feature 13 four-team groups.
The top two teams in each group will then join top seeds Portugal in the spring 2024 elite round along with the third-placed team with the best record against the top two in their section.
Russia have not been included in the competition as all Russian teams are currently suspended from UEFA competitions until further notice due to the war in Ukraine.
Malta has just staged the 2023 U19 Euros, with Italy defeating Portugal 1-0 in the final at the National Stadium in Ta’Qali. Fiorentina defender Michael Kayode scored Italy’s winner.
Peter Gilpin, director of the 2014 tournament in Northern Ireland, said: “Malta put on a great event and we are confident we can also deliver a successful U19 Euros.
“Next year’s tournament will provide football fans in Northern Ireland and beyond with the opportunity to see some of the best young footballers from across Europe in action.
“We are also confident the tournament will provide long-lasting benefits for football right across Northern Ireland.”
UEFA’s Executive Committee chose Northern Ireland to host the Men’s Under-19 European Championship finals in 2024 after the Irish Football Association missed out on staging the 2020 edition of the finals due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The UEFA men’s tournament was to have been held in Belfast, Ballymena, Lurgan and Portadown from 19 July to 1 August 2020. It was then postponed until November 2020 before being pushed back to the spring of 2021 and subsequently cancelled.
The U19 Championship was previously an under-18 competition. It became a U19 event in 2001-02 and Spain have dominated since the switch, triumphing at seven tournaments.