Asia'a next generation take first steps on road to Thailand 2019
Kuala Lumpur: With a record number of entrants, the first stage of qualifying for the 2019 AFC Women's U-16 Championship will begin at five venues around Asia on Saturday.
27 nations will take part, including Thailand who are already assured of a place in the Finals as hosts, as the competition is spread over two rounds for the first time in its history.
Perennial qualifiers China PR headline Group A, where they will meet Uzbekistan, Jordan, Guam and hosts Sri Lanka, while Mongolia will welcome Laos, India, Hong Kong and Pakistan as hosts of an intriguing Group B.
Tajikistan, one of two Central Asian nations to host a group, will welcome Thailand, Islamic Republic of Iran, Northern Mariana Islands and Singapore, while neighbours Kyrgyz Republic will face group favourites Australia in addition to Chinese Taipei, Indonesia and Palestine in Group D.
There is also the four-team Group E, based in Kathmandu, which features Nepal and Southeast Asian trio Malaysia, the Philippines and Myanmar, and gets underway on Wednesday.
The top eight teams from across the five groups will advance to the second round of qualifying in early 2019, with the four best teams from that competition to join DPR Korea, Korea Republic, Japan and Thailand at the Finals in September.
DPR Korea won the 2017 AFC U-16 Women's Championship last year, and will soon be joined by Korea Republic and Japan as Asian representatives at November's 2018 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Uruguay.
For more information, visit: http://www.the-afc.com/competitions/afc-u-16-womens-championship/fixtures