The national soccer calendar will be readjusted when the U-17 Women's World Cup has a new start date

CHENNAI: The U-17 Women's World Cup to be hosted by India for the first time will take place from February 17 to March 7 next year. FIFA announced the new dates in a statement Monday.

The women-by-age main event was originally scheduled for November 2-21 this year before the outbreak of Coronavirus forced the tournament to be deferred. The postponement of most qualifiers in most continental confederations due to the pandemic was also a reason to reschedule the event.

The dates were confirmed after taking into account the time required to complete the UEFA, CONCACAF, CAF, OFC and CONMEBOL qualification tournaments, as well as the best possible conditions in the country to organize a successful World Cup, the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for the World Cup, said in a statement.

With the Indian domestic season in full swing during the months of February and March, AIFF Secretary General Kushal Das also informed that they will need to create a window of 25 days so that the World Cup can take place. “FIFA has decided on the dates and we have to follow them. Our priority is to conduct the World Cup successfully. For that, we will need to rejig the calendar. But it shouldn't be a problem with the tournament getting over in 20 days. The five stipulated venues are barred from hosting any other tournaments in the lead up to the event. Even though we will be in the middle of the domestic season, it shouldn't be an issue to get their availability for the new dates, ”Das told TOI.

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FIFA also confirmed that the eligibility criteria (players born on or after January 1, 2003 or before December 31, 2005) for the World Cup will remain the same. This move will provide India with great relief as nine of the players in the camp were born in 2003 and would not have been eligible if the criteria were changed.

India has started the team's preparations for the World Cup almost from scratch, and finding a new group of players, notably the goalkeepers, would have been a Herculean task.

Five locations - Ahmedabad, Bhubaneswar, Guwahati, Kolkata and Navi Mumbai - were identified as host cities for the event and the All-India Football Federation (AIFF), which does not have its own stadium, said that the process of drafting new contracts with the stadiums will begin soon.