In Depth

England Under-21: Why are four 23-year-olds in the squad?

Uefa's eligibility rules mean half of Aidy Boothroyd's squad are actually over 21

England's Under-21 football team are in the spotlight after reaching the last-four of the European Championships.

The side, featuring some of the best-known youngsters in the Premier League overcame hosts Poland 3-0 on Thursday to book their place in the semi-finals

They hope to emulate the success of the England Under-20 side which won the World Cup in their age group earlier this month, the first time an England men's football team won a global tournament at any level for more than 50 years.

But while the U-20 squad was made up of players in their teens with a few 20-year-olds, all of whom were born in 1997, there is a much wider age range in the U-20 squad.

More than half of Aidy Boothroyd's charges are actually over 21, prompting some raised eyebrows among the uninitiated.

Four of of the players - Jack Pickford, Jack Stephens, Nathan Redmond and Alfie Mawson - are 23 and have 170 Premier League appearances between them.

So how do you become eligible to play for the England Under-21 side?

Uefa's rules state players must have been born after 1 January 1994 to be eligible to play in the finals this year.

The competition is held every two years and the qualification process for the 2017 tournament began in 2015. Players had to be 21 or under at the start of that year.

As the tournament aims to help the development of international teams, the same players are encouraged to stay together through the process, so there is no suggestion that squad members must be discarded when they turn 22.

The situation is slightly different in other age groups. The Under-20 World Cup is run by Fifa and the England team for that qualified via the European Under-19 Championships in 2016.

And because the European Under-19 tournament is held annually, players are all the same age.

It means that every member of the Under-20 squad was born in 1997, while the ages of the Under-21s range from 19 to 23.

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