The AFC Competitions Committee proposed a revamp of the AFC club competitions on 25 January 2014, which was ratified by the AFC Executive Committee on 16 April 2014. The member associations are ranked based on their national team's and clubs' performance over the last four years in AFC competitions, with the allocation of slots for the 2015 and 2016 editions of the AFC club competitions determined by the 2014 rankings:
The top 24 member associations (MAs) as per the AFC rankings which do not receive direct slots in the AFC Champions League are eligible to participate in the AFC Cup group stage.
The MAs ranked 25 to 32 are eligible to participate in the AFC Cup group stage, and the associations ranked 33 to 47 are eligible to participate in the AFC Cup qualifying play-off (including those of "emerging countries" which participated in the AFC President's Cup, whose last edition was in 2014).
The AFC Competitions Committee decided on the participation of member associations in the 2015 and 2016 editions of the AFC Cup on 28 November 2014.
NOTE: The following slot allocation has been confirmed for the 2016 AFC Cup. A member association may choose not to participate in the 2016 AFC Cup; alternatively, a member association may be given special entry to the 2016 AFC Cup if they are not allowed to participate in the 2016 AFC Champions League as none of their teams passed the club licensing requirements for 2016. In those cases, the actual slot allocation may change as a result.
NOTE: The following list of teams is provisional, to be confirmed by the AFC.
Teams in italics will play in the 2016 AFC Champions League qualifying play-off (if they pass the club licensing requirements), and will play in the AFC Cup group stage if they fail to advance to the AFC Champions League group stage (should they advance to the AFC Champions League group stage, they will be replaced by another team from the same association).
The six teams were drawn into two groups of three. Each group is played on a single round-robin basis at the pre-selected hosts. The winners of each group advance to the qualifying play-off.
If two or more teams are equal on points on completion of the group matches, the following criteria are applied to determine the rankings.
Greater number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned;
Goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned;
Greater number of goals scored in the group matches between the teams concerned;
Goal difference in all the group matches;
Greater number of goals scored in all the group matches;
Kicks from the penalty mark if only two teams are involved and they are both on the field of play;
Fewer score calculated according to the number of yellow and red cards received in the group matches (1 point for a single yellow card, 3 points for a red card as a consequence of two yellow cards, 3 points for a direct red card, 4 points for a yellow card followed by a direct red card);