The 1998 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, which spanned two years (1996–98), had 46 entrants. Before the quarter-finals stage, Romania were chosen as the hosts of the final stages, consisting of four matches in total.
The 46 national teams were divided into nine groups (eight groups of 5 + one group of 6). The records of the nine group winners were compared, and the eighth and ninth ranked teams played-off against each other for the eight quarter finals spot. One of the eight quarter-finalist were then chosen to host the remaining fixtures.
The qualifying stage for the 1998 UEFA European Under-21 Championship saw Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Russia, Spain and Sweden win their respective groups. Greece and England finished first in their group but were the two worst first placed group winners. Greece defeated England in a playoff to qualify for the tournament.
Only players born on or after 1 January 1975 were eligible to play in the tournament. Each nation had to submit a squad of 20 players, two of which had to be goalkeepers. If a player was injured seriously enough to prevent his taking part in the tournament before his team's first match, he can be replaced by another player.