AFC reforms competition structures with U17 Asian Cups going annual and U23s quadrennially

May 29 – With FIFA having changed the frequency of the men’s and women’s U17 World Cup to annual events, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has similarly had to rethink its competition structure in order to create qualifying competitions for the FIFA tournaments.

For the men’s U17 World Cup, the competition has been expanded to 48 teams, with Qatar hosting the five editions from 2025 to 2029. The AFC has eight qualifying nations, plus Qatar as hosts.

A meeting of the AFC Competitions Committee at the weekend agreed to change the AFC’s own U17 men’s and women’s regional competitions (qualifiers and finals) to a yearly frequency from the 2026 edition.

The U17 Asian Cup 2025 hosting has been awarded to the Saudi Arabian Football Federation.

The AFC Competitions Committee also ruled to change the dates of its U23 men’s Asian Cup, dropping the non-Olympic qualifiers’ editions from 2030 and running with a quadrennial format only from 2028.

The committee also granted a China a return to regional hosting. The Chinese pulled out of hosting the confederations blue riband Asian Cup in 2023, but the country has now been awarded the hosting of the AFC U20 Asian Cup 2025.

With a major focus of the AFC for the 2024/25 season being the delivery of its new three-tier club system, the competitions committee passed a raft of competition regulations for the AFC Champions League Elite (ACL Elite), AFC Champions League Two (ACL Two), and AFC Challenge League (ACGL).
Updates included the Technical rules, Competition system, Player registration windows and the newly introduced Homegrown player policies.

Records and statistics of the preceding AFC Club Competitions will be recognised and integrated within the revamped club competitions, said the AFC.

The committee also approved the calendar for the 2025/26 club season.

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