Former winners Nigeria, Gabon and Egypt are three of 10 teams to be bye-passed from the second qualifying round for the Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations final in Morocco.
Twenty countries, including Togo and Tanzania, will enter the first round where fixtures will be played over two legs between September 19 and 27.
Thursday’s qualifying draw produced 10 encounters in the first round, including Ethiopia against DR Congo and Angola against Namibia.
The other teams ready to skip the first round are Ivory Coast, South Africa, Algeria, Ghana, Senegal, Cameroon and Mali.
Four of the 14 matches in the second round have already been drawn: Sudan against Benin, Guinea against Uganda, Sierra Leone against Zambia, Congo against Tunisia. These meetings will be played over two legs from October 21 to 23 and October 28 to 30.
The 14 winners will then move on to the third qualifying round, scheduled for March 2023, to determine the seven teams that will join host Morocco for next year’s continental event.
And there is added incentive to reach the June final as the top three finishers in the tournament will qualify to represent Africa in men’s football at the Paris 2024 Olympics.