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UEFA confirms increase in final bids as Euro 2016 qualification process is revealed

Dec 20, 2013, 6:05 PM EDT

EURO2016 Reuters

France will host the first European tournament featuring 24 finalists, that much we’ve known.

UEFA has confirmed the qualification process for Euro 2016, with the European governing body allowing 24 teams to progress to the final stage.

A record 53 countries will enter the pot, including first-timers Gibraltar.

The lot will be drawn into nine groups – eight groups of six countries and one group of five – with the top two teams in each group advancing to Euro 2016.

The third place nations also have a chance to make the final stage.  The third-place team with the highest point total qualifies automatically, with the final eight third-place teams facing off in a playoff for four spots.

France, the host country, qualifies automatically.  It is their seventh straight trip to the knockout stage of the European tournament.

The group draw will take place on February 23, 2014 in Nice, France.

The final phase of the tournament in France will be played across 10 different venues in Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Bordeaux, Nice, Lens, Toulouse, Saint-Etienne, Saint-Denis, and Villeneuve-d’Ascq.

The decision to increase the teams in the final round from 16 to 24 has taken a lot of heat since being first approved in 2008.  The tournament has slowly increased the final numbers over time, starting with just four in 1976.

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