AFC releases dates for major structural shift of Champions League and AFC Cup for 2023/24

August 2 – The AFC has unveiled more detail of its new club competition calendar, taking effect in full from 2023, as it transitions away from its current Spring-Autumn calendar year season to following the Autumn-Spring calendar of the European season.

The AFC Champions League 2023/24 will open with the Preliminary Stage 1 on August 8, 2023, with the Group Stage being played from September 18 to December 13, 2023, and with a return to home and away fixtures rather than playing at the centralised venues.

The shift is a major restructuring of the AFC’s competition calendar with the aim of making its club sides and national teams more competitive internationally.

For clubs it will allow a greater synchronisation of transfer windows and improved chances for Asian clubs to sign better players, as well as providing a more even distribution of club matches over the year to maintain a balance with National Team matches.

For national teams it will allow the AFC’s senior nations, who have key players overseas, to dovetail their national team commitments with their club seasons in the same way the European nations are able to, hence reducing issues over player releases and pressure on players.

When the changes were announced in February the AFC said that there was also an accompanying commercial benefit “for AFC Champions League and AFC Cup matches in terms of TV audiences and media interest with respect to the calendar structures of UEFA club competitions and European leagues.”

The AFC Champions League schedule will now mirror the UEFA Champions League season with preliminary rounds and Group Stages starting in August and compling before Christmas and the knockout rounds being played in the New Year.

Next season’s Champions League knockout stage will be held from February 12 to April 24, 2024, before the two-legged Final is played on May 11 and 18, 2024.

The current Champions League season, which was expanded to 36 teams for this edition, continues with East Zone last 16 knockout rounds later this month. West Zone knock out rounds are scheduled to being in February next year, with the regional semi-finals to be played at the end of February. No date has been set for the final.

The AFC also announced  2023/24 dates for the AFC Cupwhich will start with the Preliminary Stage on August 1, 2023, while the Group Stage is set to be held from September 18 to December 14, before the Zonal Semi-finals take place from February 2024, followed by the single-leg Final on May 5, 2024.

The AFC’s executive committee has also approved, form the 2023/24 season, a recommendation to eliminate the away goals rule as a tiebreaker in knockout rounds. Now tied teams will play extra time and, if necessary, decide the tie on penalties.

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