The draw for the qualifiers was held on 19 May 2016. Four teams qualified directly for the final tournament by their 2015 performance, while the other entrants competed in the qualifying stage for the remaining four spots (Thailand also participated in qualifying despite already qualified as hosts). The qualifiers were held from 25 August to 5 September 2016.
Players born between 1 January 2001 and 31 December 2003 are eligible to compete in the tournament. Each team must register a squad of minimum 16 players and maximum 23 players, minimum two of whom must be goalkeepers (Regulations Articles 29.4 and 29.5).
The top two teams of each group advance to the semi-finals.
Teams are ranked according to points (3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, 0 points for a loss), and if tied on points, the following tiebreaking criteria are applied, in the order given, to determine the rankings (Regulations Article 11.5):
Goals scored in head-to-head matches among tied teams;
If more than two teams are tied, and after applying all head-to-head criteria above, a subset of teams are still tied, all head-to-head criteria above are reapplied exclusively to this subset of teams;
Goal difference in all group matches;
Goals scored in all group matches;
Penalty shoot-out if only two teams are tied and they met in the last round of the group;
Disciplinary points (yellow card = 1 point, red card as a result of two yellow cards = 3 points, direct red card = 3 points, yellow card followed by direct red card = 4 points);