AFC Champions League
(2002 in its current format)
|Number of teams||32 Group Stage
|Current champions||Guangzhou Evergrande (1st title)|
|Most successful club(s)||Pohang Steelers (3 titles)|
|2014 AFC Champions League|
The AFC Champions League is the Asian premier club competition that is run by the Asian Football Confederation, which is the premier club football tournament on the continent. It is equivalent to the CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores and the UEFA, CAF, CONCACAF & OFC Champions League competitions.
A total of forty-six clubs compete in the competition; twenty-eight clubs receive automatic berths, with eighteen clubs qualifying via the qualifying playoffs. Since 2009, the champions do not qualify automatically for the following year competition. The winner of the AFC Champions League qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup. The reigning champions of the competition are Guangzhou Evergrande. The most successful club in the competition is the Pohang Steelers with the club winning a total of three titles.
- 1 History
- 2 Current Regulations
- 3 Participating Associations
- 4 Asian Champions League Finals
- 5 Participating Associations by debut
- 6 AFC Champions League records and statistics
- 7 Team of the year
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Asian Champion Club Tournament Era (1967–1971)
The competition started as the Asian Champion Club Tournament, the competition had a variety of different formats with the inaugural tournament staged as a straight forward knockout format. The two most successful clubs of this era were Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Tel Aviv. The tournament was not held after the 1971 edition for fourteen years due to a lack of professionalism and interest.
Asian Club Championship Era (1985/86–2001/02)
1985/86 competition marked the return of the premier club tournament rebranded the Asian Club Championship. The format would again change for time to time with a few withdrawals also seen. In 1990, the Asian Football Confederation introduced the Asian Cup Winners Cup, with the 1995 season seeing the introduction of the Asian Super Cup.
AFC Champions League Era (2002/03–present)
- 2002/03 season
The 2002/03 season saw the Asian Club Championship, Asian Cup Winners Cup and Asian Super Cup combine to become the AFC Champions League. League and Cup Winners would qualify for the qualifying playoffs with the best eight clubs from east and west Asia progressing to the Group Stage. The first winners under the AFC Champions League name was Al Ain defeating BEC Tero 2-1 on aggregate. The competition would be postponed for one year due to the SARI Virus.
- 2004–2008 seasons
The tournament was re-launched in 2004 with 29 clubs from fourteen countries. Unlike the previous year, the tournament schedule was changed to March to November. In the group stage, the 28 clubs were divided into seven groups of four on a regional basis, separating East Asian and West Asian clubs to reduce traveling costs, and played double round-robin on a home and away basis. Then, the seven group winners along with the defending champions qualified to the quarterfinals. The quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals were played as a two-legged format, with away goals, extra time, and penalties used as tie-breakers.
The 2005 season saw Syrian clubs join the competition, thus increasing the number of participating countries to 15, and two years later, following their transfer into the AFC in 2006, Australian clubs were also included in the tournament. With lack of professionalism in Asian football, many problems still existed in the tournament, such as on field violence and late submission of the player registration. Many blamed the lack of prize money and expensive travel cost as the some of the reasons.
However, with the introduction of the FIFA World Club Championship in 2005 (now known as FIFA Club World Cup), inclusion of English media via the A-League, and two consecutive wins by Japanese sides, allowed to set up a more competitive and more professional format in 2009.
The Champions League expanded to 32 clubs and direct entry is limited to the top ten Asian leagues. Each country will receive up to 4 slots, though no more than one third of the number of teams in that country's top division, rounded downwards, depending on the strength of their league, league structure (professionalism), marketability, financial status, and other criteria set out by the AFC Pro-League committee.
The assessment criteria and ranking for participating associations will be revised by AFC every two years, with the most recent ones being approved for 2011–2012 seasons.
The prize money has been significantly increased since 2009 season and the clubs can earn some prize money even at the group stage depending on their performance. The group stage is conducted in the same manner as the previous four tournaments; this time, however, now eight group winners and eight runners-up qualify to the Round of 16, in which group-winners play host to the runners-up in a single match format, matched regionally.
The regional restriction is lifted from the further stages, though since 2010 season clubs from the same country cannot face each other in the quarterfinals unless that country has three or more representatives in the quarterfinals. The quarterfinals and the semifinals are played in two-legged series, with away goal, extra time, and penalties used as tie-breakers. The final is played as a single match at a pre-determined neutral venue.
The Competition committee meeting in 2012 marked new format changes for the 2013 edition with the Round of 16 for the first time to be played as a home and away series. Also for the first time since 2008; the Final would be played as a two legged tie.
The Asian Football Confederation made a proposal to revert the final back to a single leg and allow the best twenty-three member associations that meet the ACL Criteria compete. A final decision on the purposals will be made in November 2013. However on the 26 of November 2013, the executive committee chose to keep the Final two legs after the success of the 2013 AFC Champions League Final and expand the competition to nineteen member association.
Qualification to the AFC Champions League is based on the ACL Criteria; which is a modified version of the Union of European Football Associations coefficient that determines a specific number of berths that a nation receives. The criteria measures marketability, stadia, etc. Currently only the ten best nations are eligible to compete in the competition.
AFC Final Assessment Ranking for 2013 season
|Evaluation for 2014 AFC Champions League|
|Fulfills criteria (> 600 points)|
|Does not fulfill criteria, but allocated slots|
|Not assessed, but allocated slots|
- Qualifying play-off
A total of nineteen teams are drawn together over three single elimination ties too compete for the final four spots in the group stage.
- Group Stage
A total of 32 clubs are divided into 8 groups of four, based on region i.e. East Asian and South-east Asian clubs are drawn in Group E to H, while the rest are grouped in Group A to D. Each group is a double round robin, for a total of 6 matches for each team. Clubs receive 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, and 0 points for a loss. The clubs are ranked according to points and tie breakers are in the following order:
- Points earned between the clubs in question
- Goal Difference between the clubs in question
- Goals For between the clubs in question
- Goal Difference within the group
- Goals For within the group
The eight group winners and eight runners-up qualify to the Knockout Phase.
- Knockout Phase
Round-of-16, Quarterfinals, Semifinal & Final
Starting season 2013: the group winners and runners-up would play a two-legged tie to determine which club would progress to the Quarter Finals. Clubs would play each other on a regional basis. Aggregate goals decides the match winner. If the aggregate goals cannot produce a winner the away goals rule is used. If still tied the clubs play extra time, where the away goals rule still applies. If still tied after extra time, the game goes to penalties.
Country protection rule applies in the Quarter Final stage. From 2014, east and west zones will be kept part until the final.
Sponsors & Promotion
- Fly Emirates 
- ING 
- Nike 
- Nikon 
- Panasonic 
- QBN 
- Qatar Petroleum 
- SDLG 
- Tsingtao 
- Asahi 
- Seiko 
- Yanmar 
- WSG 
- PES 
|Group stages||Win: $40,000 & Draw: $20,000||$30,000|
|Round of 16||$50,000||$40,000|
|Final||Champions: $1.5 million & Runners-up: $750,000||$60,000|
Asian Champions League Finals
Asian Champion Club Tournament (1967–1972)
|1967||Hapoel Tel Aviv
||2 – 1||Selangor FA
|1969||Maccabi Tel Aviv
||1 – 0||Yangzee FC
||2 – 1||Hapoel Tel Aviv
||Amjadieh Stadium, Tehran|
|1971||Maccabi Tel Aviv
1 The final was scratched and Maccabi were awarded the championship after Al-Shorta refused to play in the final for political reasons.
Asian Club Championship (1985–2002)
- Official season orthography of Asian Club Championship is reset. Both one year seasons and two years seasons listed separately.
1 The championship was decided in a final pool of four teams.
2 The final was scratched and Yomiuri FC were awarded the championship after Al-Hilal objected to the match officials that were chosen for the first leg and refused to participate in the final.
AFC Champions League (2002/03–present)
Participating Associations by debut
Asian Club Championship (included qualifying round)
Italics are withdrawn associations.
|Year||New Entry Team(s)|
|1967||Hong Kong, Israel, Malaysia, South Korea, South Vietnam, Thailand|
|1969||India, Iran, Japan, Philippines|
|1986|| Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, China, Jordan, Macau,
Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, North Yemen, Oman, Pakistan,
Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Yemen, Sri Lanka, Syria, United Arab Emirates,
|1995||Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan|
AFC Champions League
|Year||New Entry Team(s)|
|2003|| Brunei, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia,
Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait,
Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Macau, Maldives, Qatar,
Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Thailand,
Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen
Non Participating Associations
AFC Champions League records and statistics
The following table lists Clubs by number of winners and runner-up in AFC Champions League.
Ranking By Country
The following table lists countries by number of winners and runner-up in AFC Champions League.
|United Arab Emirates||1||1|
Fair Play Award
|2010||Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma|
|2011||Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors|
Team of the year
2013： Goalkeeper: Dragon (Seoul FC, Korea);
Defenders: Zhang Linpeng (Guangzhou Evergrande, Chinese), Suzuki Daisuke (Kashiwa reysol, Japan), Hanif omranzadeh (Esteghlal FC, Iran), Sun Xiang (Guangzhou Evergrande, Chinese);
Midfield: Conca (Guangzhou Evergrande, Chinese), Zheng Zhi (Guangzhou Evergrande, China), javad Nekounam (Esteghlal FC, Iran);
Strikers: Muriqui (Guangzhou Evergrande, Chinese), elk Sen (Guangzhou Evergrande, China), deyoung (Seoul FC, Korea)
Subs: Kanno Takanori (goalkeeper, Kashiwa reysol, Japan), Guo Taihui (Al Shah Babu, Saudi Arabia), the Ma Zhan (Wu Li, Thailand), Jin Zhengui (FC Seoul, South Korea), He Dacheng (FC Seoul, South Korea), Wagner (Kashiwa reysol, Japan), Teng Zhuang people (Kashiwa reysol, Japan)
- International club competition records
- List of Asian Cup and AFC Champions League winning managers
- All-time AFC Champions League table
- Australian clubs in the AFC Champions League
- Chinese clubs in the AFC Champions League
- Indonesian clubs in the AFC Champions League
- Iraqi clubs in the AFC Champions League
- Japanese clubs in the AFC Champions League
- Qatari clubs in the AFC Champions League
- South Korean clubs in the AFC Champions League
- Thai clubs in the AFC Champions League
- Assessment and participation criteria for 2009–2010 seasons
- Criteria for Participation in AFC Club Competitions for 2011–2012 seasons
- AFC, WSG Renew Landmark Partnership
- "AFC Champions League Official Programme". AFC.com.