The European football championships in 2016 will be expanded from 16 teams to 24, UEFA announced here on Friday.
The “historic” decision will hand a much greater chance for middle-ranked nations to make the final cut for European football's showpiece tournament, UEFA said.
The 13-man executive committee of European football's governing body voted unanimously for the expansion.
The 16-team format for the Euro finals has been in place since 1996.
But presidents of the 53 federations that make up UEFA spoke out in favour of an expansion during an informal meeting with UEFA president Michel Platini on the eve of the Euro 2008 final in Vienna in June.
Immediate ramifications for the staging of the tournament would be an increase to 51 matches from 31 over four weeks instead of three.
The format of the final tournament will consist of six groups of four teams, followed by a round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final, UEFA said.
The top two from each group would qualify in addition to the four best third-ranked sides.
This format would generate a total of 51 games played over a period of 29 to 31 days depending on the match schedule.
“This historic decision gives middle-ranked countries a much greater chance to qualify for the final tournament,” UEFA said in a statement.
“The traditional qualifying format, with groups of six and five teams, will remain in place.”
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