The European Soccer Championship (known in Europe as the European Football Championship or UEFA Cup) is a soccer competition like the world cup held by the Union of European Football Associations (or ‘UEFA’) once every four years. The European soccer championship has been going since 1960, and is staggered to take place in between the World Cup on the even numbered years between the World Cup tournaments. Previously known as the UEFA European Nations Cup, the name was changed in 1968 to the European Football Championship in Europe and the European Soccer Championship in North America reflecting the different terms used in the two continents.
As the name suggests, the European Soccer Championship is open to all Union of European Football Association members – which caters for all the major countries in Europe. Each country then puts forwards a squad for the European Soccer Championship much as they would in the World Cup chosen from the best players across all their teams and even international teams (for example, while David Beckham now plays for LA Galaxy, he would play for England in the European Soccer Championship being born in England).
Again like the World Cup, the European Soccer Championship also has a qualifying stage where the teams must earn the opportunity to play in the competition. This involves a series of smaller games before the large more widely televised events. From here the winners will then go through to the final tournament of the European Soccer Championship which has sixteen players in total. These are divided into four groups of equal size and then drawn up against one another using seeding to play each other. These winners then go through to the European Soccer Championship quarter final where there will be a knockout format. Of course this is then followed by a semi final with the winners playing each other in the finals. Unlike the FIFA World Cup, the European Soccer Championship has no play off for third place. The winners of the European Soccer Championship then receive the Henri Delaunay Trophy, named after Henri Delauney who originally came up with the concept of the European Soccer Championship (though he would not live to see the first tournament). The most recent winners were Germany in 2008, Greece in 2004, France in 2000, Germany in 1996 and Denmark in 1992.
Placed between the World Cup, the European Soccer Championship offers another large tournament for football fans in Europe where the sport is incredibly popular. It is second in size only to the World Cup, and is highly marketed and televised across most European countries. The next European Soccer Championship will take place in 2012 and will be co-hosted by Poland and Unikraine.