Men's U21 World Championship 2021 competition formula

The competition will take place from September 23 to October 3 and feature a total of 16 teams.

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The 16 teams will be divided into four pools of four teams each and will play a round-robin tournament (Pools A and C in Italy, Pools B and D in Bulgaria). The top two teams from each pool will then be split into two further pools of four (Pool E in Italy and F in Bulgaria), with the bottom two teams from the first round also divided into two pools of four (Pool G in Italy and H in Bulgaria).

The top two teams from Pools E and F will qualify for the semifinals and finals, with the bottom two facing off in a playoff to be classified from fifth to eighth. The winners from Pools G and H will have a playoff for the ninth to 12th places with the bottom two teams from the same pools moving onto a playoff for 13th to 16th.

The matches for first to eighth place will be held in Italy while the matches for ninth to sixteenth will be played in Bulgaria.

Cameroon had been due to participate in the event; however, were unable to arrange their visas for Bulgaria in time and so forfeited their matches.