The South American U-20 Championship, held in Uruguay this January, doubled as CONMEBOL’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament. With South America the first Confederation to do so, it marked the official start of qualifying for the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio de Janeiro 2016. Two-time Olympic champions Argentina became the first country to qualify, with the region’s other guaranteed berth having already been allocated to hosts Brazil.
Next up is the UEFA European U-21 Championship, which takes place in the Czech Republic between 17-30 June 2015. In total 52 nations sought to qualify and, after two preliminary phases, the seven teams left standing have earned the right to battle it out with the hosts for the region’s four allocated berths. Among the finalists are Germany, Italy and England, while notable absentees include Spain and the Netherlands. Split into two groups of four, the Olympic tickets await the semi-finalists.
Shortly afterwards, the focus turns to Papua New Guinea, where the Pacific Games will be staged between 4-17 July, with Oceania’s hopefuls competing for the continent's sole berth at Rio de Janeiro 2016.
Then it is off to the United States where, between 1 and 13 October 2015, the CONCACAF Olympic Championship will take place. Eight nations, including reigning Olympic champions Mexico, will be competing for 2.5 places. Qualifying directly will be the two finalists, while the third-placed side faces an intercontinental play-off against CONMEBOL runners-up Colombia.
The spotlight will be on Senegal for the CAF U-23 Championship, which will be held on a date to be confirmed. There, eight finalists will be competing for the continent’s three direct qualifying places for Rio 2016.
The line-up for the Olympic Tournament will be completed in early 2016 after Qatar stages the AFC U-23 Championship between 16 and 30 January. Of the 43 nations set to contest the preliminary phase, 16 will proceed to the finals in Qatar in search of the region’s three assigned berths.
In all, 16 countries will have the chance to secure an Olympic medal in Rio de Janeiro, where the national U-23 teams will again be allowed to supplement their squads with up to three overage players.