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AFC to stage club competitions at centralised venues

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has detailed plans to host the group stages of its Champions League and AFC Cup competitions at centralised venues this season.

The host cities for the tournaments have not yet been confirmed. The group stage draws for the two competitions will take place tomorrow (Wednesday), after which point bidding invitations and other hosting details will be given to participating member associations.

According to the Associated Press news agency, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are interested in hosting matches.

The AFC Champions League group stage west region matches will take place from April 14-30, with the east region planned for April 21 to May 7.

The round-of-16 Champions League matches are scheduled for September 13-15, with the quarter-finals to be held from September 27-29. Both rounds will be played as single matches before two-legged semi-finals are held on October 19-20 and October 26-27.

The two-legged final of the Champions League, which will feature 40 teams for the first time, will be held on November 21 and 27.

The AFC Cup group stage will kick off in the south, central and east zones on May 14, with the west zone scheduled to commence on May 23 and the ASEAN zone to take place from June 22-28. Each team in the group stage of the competition will take part in a single-match round-robin format.

The AFC Cup west zonal semi-finals have been pencilled in for September 13-14, with the second leg scheduled for two weeks later. The ASEAN zonal semi-finals will be held on August 10-11 over a single leg.

The two-legged zonal final involving south, central and east clubs will be held on August 11 and 25, with the ASEAN single-zonal final planned for August 25 and the two-legged west zonal final taking place on October 20 and November 3. The AFC Cup final will take place on November 26.

Dato’ Windsor John, general secretary of the AFC, said: “The AFC is most grateful for the support of the AFC Competitions Committee, the member associations and the participating clubs in producing this schedule for the biggest and most inclusive AFC Champions League and AFC Cup in history.

“Once again, the AFC will put the safety and welfare of all its stakeholders as its overriding priority, but we demonstrated with the successful AFC Champions League in 2020 that the unity, solidarity and strong leadership of the AFC can deliver its club competitions in the most challenging of times.”

Last year’s AFC Champions League was suspended in early March due to COVID-19 but resumed in September as Qatar hosted the finale of the west zone tournament. Qatar later struck a deal to host the remainder of the eastern section of the competition.

Image: AFC