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