March 1 – The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has announced centralised hosts for its AFC Cup 2021 club competition that has been expanded to a 36 team group stage this season. The competition was cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The AFC Cup has been dominated since its inception in 2004 by teams from the AFC’s West Zone. Central zone Uzbekistan’s FC Nasaf won in 2011, while ASEAN zone Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim, won in 2015, but all other winners have come from the West with Lebanon’s Al-Ahed the current champions from 2019.
Al-Ahed will compete again this season in group A, hosted in Manama, Bahrain where they will face Bahrain’s Al Hidd Club, Al Nasr from Oman and Al Wahda from Syria.
The two other West Zone groups will be hosted in Amman, Jordan.
The expanded central zone will see two groups hosted by FC Dordoi in Bishkek, Kryzygstan, and Dushanbe in Tajikistan.
Singapore will host two ASEAN zone groups while the host of a further ASEAN group is still to be announce. Male in the Maldives will host the South Zone group and Hong Kong the East Zone group.
A series of play-off matches to finalise the final six slots for the group stages have still to be played. Group matches will be played in the West, South and East Zones in May while the ASEAN zone groups will play in June.
Group A: Al Hidd Club (BHR), Al Nasr (OMA), Al Wahda (SYR) and Al Ahed FC (LBN) will be hosted in Manama, Bahrain.
Group B, Amman, Jordan: Al Ansar FC (LBN), Muharraq Club (BHR), Al Salt (JOR) and Balata Center (PLE)
Group C, Amman, Jordan: Al Faisaly (JOR), Al Seeb Club (OMA), Tishreen (SYR) and winner of the West Zone Play-off match
Group D, Male, Maldives: ATK Mohun Bagan (IND), Bashundhara Kings (BAN), Maziya Sports & Recreation (MDV) and the winner of the South Zone Play-off
Group E, Bishkek, Kryzygstan: FC Dordoi (KGZ), Ahal FC (TKM) and FC Ravshan (TJK) Group F, Dushanbe, Tajikistan: FC Alay (KGZ), Altyn Asyr FC (TKM), FC Khujand (TJK) and the winner of AGMK FC or FC Nasaf (both UZB)
Group G: Bali Utd (IND), Boeung Ket (CAM), Hanoi FC (VET), Play-off winner
Group H, Singapore: Kedah Darul Aman (MAS), Lion City Sailors (SIN), Saigon (VIE) and the ASEAN Zone Play-off 2 winner
Group I, Singapore: Geylang International FC (SIN), Kaya FC-Iloilo (PHI), Terengganu FC (MAS) and the winner of Shan United FC or Ayeyawady United FC (both Myanmar)
Group J, Hong Kong: Athletic 220 FC (MNG), Eastern Long Lions (HKG), Lee Man (HKG) and Tainan City FC (TPE)
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