August 15 – The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has radically revamped its men’s club competition structure into three new tiers, as well as launching a Women’s Champions League and boosting prize money across the competitions to record levels.
The new competitions will take effect from the 2024-25 season and will see the AFC’s top 24 clubs compete in the AFC Champions League Elite (ACLE), while the 32-team second tier will be known as the AFC Champions League 2 (ACL2) and the third tier will see 20 clubs compete in the AFC Challenge League (ACGL).
The ACLE will be divided into 12 teams across the West and East regions competing in a league format with four home and four away matches against eight different clubs within its region.
The top eight sides from both regions – 16 in total – will advance to the Round of 16 knockout stage, which will be played in a home and away format.
The ACLE champions will win $12 million (up from the current $4 million for this season). The losing finalist will receive $6 million (up from $2 million). The AFC said that “both the ACL2 and ACGL will see boosts across the board in prize fund and benefits”.
While the AFC is boosting its men’s club championships, it is also accelerating its women’s club competitions having organised two pilot AFC Women’s Club Championship in 2021 and 2022 with a third edition scheduled to take place later this year.
The new AFC Women’s Champions League will invite all eligible clubs from all AFC MAs to participate. A financial distribution model “will be announced on due course”, said the AFC.
“The AFC Women’s Champions League is a major step aligned with our strategy to provide a platform to showcase the talent of women players on a Continental stage and we are confident that the competition will empower women in Asian football, contributing to gender equality and breaking down societal barriers, to make a positive impact on the growth of the women’s game,” said AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa.
Emphasising the requirement for sustainable and competitive men’sclub competitions across Asia, Shaikh Salman said: “Our club competitions are already amongst the best and most lucrative in Continental football, and today the AFC is embarking on a new and historic era with these forward-looking initiatives in both men’s and women’s Asian club football.
“The AFC has outlined its ambitions to ensure our teams and players continue to shine through world-class competitions and a major part of this ambition is anchored on our promise to reinvest in our competitions, which is the lifeblood of development for all our Member Associations.
“The AFC has always held the belief that we have a duty to reward success and the increase in prize money and the travel contributions in recent years created a lasting impact on our clubs and we have every faith that the strategic reforms and the new funding model will further raise the intensity, stature and quality of the Asian club game,” added Salman.
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