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The AFC Champions League, commonly known as the Asian Champions League, is an annual continental club football competition organised by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). Introduced in 2002, the competition is a continuation of the Asian Club Championship which had started in 1967. It is the premier club tournament in Asia, equivalent to the CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores, and the UEFA, CAF, CONCACAF and OFC Champions League competitions.

AFC Champions League
AFC Champions League 2008 logo.svg
Founded 1967; 51 years ago (1967) (since 2002 in its current format)
Region Asia (AFC)
Number of teams 45 (total)
32 (group stage)
Qualifier for FIFA Club World Cup
Related competitions AFC Cup
Current champions Japan Urawa Red Diamonds (2nd title)
Most successful club(s) South Korea Pohang Steelers (3 titles)
Website AFC Champions League
2018 AFC Champions League

A total of 32 clubs compete in the round robin group stage of the competition. Clubs from Asia's strongest national leagues receive automatic berths, with clubs from lower-ranked nations eligible to qualify via the qualifying playoffs, and they are also eligible to participate in the AFC Cup. Since 2009, the champions do not qualify automatically for the following year's competition. The winner of the AFC Champions League qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup.

The most successful club in the competition is the Pohang Steelers with a total of three titles. The reigning champions of the competition are the Urawa Red Diamonds, who also won the competition in 2007.

Contents

HistoryEdit

1967–2002: BeginningsEdit

The competition started as the Asian Club Championship, a tournament for the champions of each AFC nation, and had a variety of different formats, with the inaugural tournament staged as a straightforward knockout format and the following three editions consisting of a group stage. Israeli clubs dominated the first four editions of the competition, partly due to the refusal of Arab teams to face them. In 1970, Lebanese side Homenetmen refused to play against Hapoel Tel Aviv in the semi-final and Hapoel thus went straight to the final, while in 1971, Al-Shorta of Iraq refused to play against Maccabi Tel Aviv on two separate occasions in the tournament including the finale itself, with the Arab media considering the Iraqi side as the tournament's winners and the team holding an open top bus parade.[1] After these two editions, the AFC decided that teams who refused to play matches for political reasons would be disqualified from the tournament, but this failed to act as a deterrent as the 1972 edition had to be cancelled after two Arab teams refused to commit to playing against Israeli side Maccabi Netanya. After this, the AFC stopped holding the competition and Israel were expelled from the confederation. Asia's premier club tournament made its return in 1985, and in 1990, the Asian Football Confederation introduced the Asian Cup Winners' Cup, a tournament for the cup winners of each AFC nation. The 1995 season saw the introduction of the Asian Super Cup where the winners of the Asian Club Championship and Asian Cup Winners' Cup faced against each other.

2002–present: Champions League eraEdit

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 champions and cup winners would qualify for the qualifying playoffs with the best eight clubs from East Asia and the eight best clubs from West Asia progressing to the group stage. The first winners under the AFC Champions League name were Al-Ain, defeating BEC Tero 2–1 on aggregate. In 2004, 29 clubs from fourteen countries participated and the tournament schedule was changed to March–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 travel costs, and the groups were played on a home and away basis. 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. Owing to the lack of professionalism in Asian football, many problems still existed in the tournament, such as on field violence and late submission of player registration. Many blamed the lack of prize money and expensive travel cost as some of the reasons. The Champions League expanded to 32 clubs in 2009 with direct entry to the top ten Asian leagues. Each country received 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 by the AFC Pro-League Committee.[2] The assessment criteria and ranking for participating associations would be revised by AFC every two years.[3]

The current format sees the eight group winners and eight runners-up qualify to the Round of 16, in which group winners play host to the runners-up in two-legged series, matched regionally, with away goals, extra time, and penalties used as tie-breakers. The regional restriction continues all the way until the final, although clubs from the same country cannot face each other in the quarterfinals unless that country has three or more representatives in the quarterfinals. Since 2013, the final has also been held as a two-legged series, on a home and away basis.[4][5]

FormatEdit

QualificationEdit

 
Map of AFC countries whose teams reached the group stage of the AFC Champions League
  AFC member country that has been represented in the group stage
  AFC member country that has not been represented in the group stage

As of 2009 edition of the tournament, the AFC Champions League has commenced with a double round-robin group stage of 32 teams, which is preceded by qualifying matches for teams that do not receive direct entry to the competition proper. Teams are also split into east and west zones to progress separately in the tournament.

The number of teams that each association enters into the AFC Champions League is determined annually through criteria as set by the AFC Competitions Committee.[6] The criteria, which is a modified version of the UEFA coefficient, measures such thing as marketability and stadia to determine the specific number of berths that an association receives. The higher an association's ranking as determined by the criteria, the more teams represent the association in the Champions League, and the fewer qualification rounds the association's teams must compete in.

TournamentEdit

The tournament proper begins with a group stage of 32 teams, divided into eight groups. Seeding is used whilst making the draw for this stage, with teams from the same country not being drawn into groups together. The group stage is divided into two zones; the first zone is the four East Asian groups and the other zone is the four West Asian groups. Each team meets the others in its group home and away in a round-robin format. The winning team and the runners-up from each group then progress to the next round.

For this stage, the winning team from one group plays against the runners-up from another group from their zone of the group stage. The tournament uses the away goals rule: if the aggregate score of the two games is tied after 180 minutes, then the team who scored more goals at their opponent's stadium advances. If still tied the clubs play extra time, where the away goals rule is no longer applied. If still tied after extra time, the tie shall be decided by a penalty shootout. East and West zones continue to be kept part until the final.[6]

The group stage and Round of 16 matches are played through the first half of the year (February–May), whilst the knock-out stage thereafter is played during the second half of the year (August–November). The knock-out ties are played in a two-legged format, including the final.

AllocationEdit

Teams from only 19 AFC countries have reached the group stage of the AFC Champions League. The allocation of teams by member countries is listed below; asterisks represent occasions where at least one team was eliminated in qualification prior to the group stage. 32 AFC countries have had teams participate in qualification, and countries that have never had teams reach the group stage are not shown.

Associations Entrants
2002–03 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
East Asia
  Australia 2 2 2 2 2 3 1* 3 2* 2* 3 2*
  China PR 2 2 2 2 2 2 4 4 4 3 4 4 4 4 3* 4
  Hong Kong 0* 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0* 0* 0* 1* 1*
  Indonesia 0* 2 2 0 2 0 1* 1* 1* 0* 0 0 0* 0 0 0*
  Japan 2 2 2 2 2 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
  South Korea 2 2 2 2 3 2 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
  Singapore 0* 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0* 0* 0* 0* 0*
  Thailand 2 2 2 0 1 2 0* 0* 0* 1* 2 1* 1* 1* 1* 1*
  Vietnam 0* 2 2 2 1 2 0 0* 0 0 0 0* 1* 1* 0* 0*
Total 8 12 12 8 13 13 16 16 15 15 15 16 16 16 16 16
West Asia
  Bahrain 0* 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0* 0* 0 0 0*
  Iran 2 2 2 2 1 2 4 4 4 3* 3* 4 4 3* 4 4
  Iraq 1* 2 2 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0* 0 0 0 0
  Kuwait 0* 2 2 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0* 0* 0 0 0
  Qatar 1* 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 3 4 4 4 2* 2* 2* 4
  Saudi Arabia 1* 2 3 3 2 2 4 4 4 3* 4 4 4 4 4 2
  Syria 0* 0 2 2 2 2 0 0* 0* 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
  Turkmenistan 1* 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
  UAE 1* 3 2 2 2 2 4 4 4 4 4 3* 2* 3* 4 4
  Uzbekistan 1* 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 3* 2* 1* 4 4 2* 2*
Total 8 17 17 17 15 16 16 16 17 17 17 16 16 16 16 16
Total
Finals 16 29 29 25 28 29 32 32 32 32 32 32 32 32 32 32
Qualifying 53 29 29 25 28 29 35 37 36 37 35 47 49 45 47 46

Prize moneyEdit

The prize money from the 2018 AFC Champions League:[7][8]

Phase Purse
(USD)
Travel Subsidy
(per match)
Preliminary stage N/A $20,000
Playoff stage N/A $20,000
Group stages Win: $50,000
Draw: $10,000
$30,000
Round of 16 $100,000 $30,000
Quarter-finals $150,000 $30,000
Semi-finals $250,000 $30,000
Final Champions: $4,000,000
Runners-up: $2,000,000
$60,000

MarketingEdit

SponsorshipEdit

Like the FIFA World Cup, the AFC Champions League is sponsored by a group of multinational corporations, in contrast to the single main sponsor typically found in national top-flight leagues.

The tournament's current main sponsors are:

Broadcasting rightsEdit

Country/Region Channels Reference
  ASEAN Fox Sports Asia
  Australia Fox Sports Australia
  China CSM
PPTV
[14]
  Cambodia BTV News
  Europe Eurosport
  India DSport
  Indonesia MNC Media (featuring All Indonesian teams only (if involved), starting from play-off round match)
  Iran IRIB
  Japan Nippon TV
  MENA beIN SPORTS
  South Korea JTBC3 Fox Sports
  Thailand Channel 7 (featuring All Thai teams only, starting from play-off round match)
  United States Eleven Sports Network
  Uzbekistan MTRK

Video gameEdit

The current license holder for the AFC Champions League video game is Konami with the Pro Evolution Soccer series.[15] The license also includes the competing teams.

Records and statisticsEdit

WinnersEdit

Performances in the Asian Club Championship and AFC Champions League by club
Club Winners Runners-up Years Won Years Runners-up
  Pohang Steelers 3 0 1997, 1998, 2009
  Al-Hilal 2 4 1991, 2000 1986, 1987, 2014, 2017
  Esteghlal 2 2 1970, 1990–91 1991, 1999
  Seongnam FC 2 2 1995, 2010 1997, 2004
  Al-Ittihad 2 1 2004, 2005 2009
  Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2 1 2006, 2016 2011
  Maccabi Tel Aviv2 2 0 1969, 1971
  Thai Farmers Bank1 2 0 1994, 1994–95
  Suwon Samsung Bluewings 2 0 2001, 2002
  Al-Sadd 2 0 1989, 2011
  Guangzhou Evergrande 2 0 2013, 2015
  Urawa Red Diamonds 2 0 2007, 2017
  Jubilo Iwata 1 2 1999 2000, 2001
  Al-Ain 1 2 2003 2005, 2016
  Hapoel Tel Aviv2 1 1 1967 1970
  Liaoning Whowin 1 1 1990 1990–91
  Busan IPark 1 0 1985–86
  JEF United Chiba 1 0 1986
  Tokyo Verdy 1 0 1987
  PAS Tehran1 1 0 1993
  Gamba Osaka 1 0 2008
  Ulsan Hyundai 1 0 2012
  Western Sydney Wanderers 1 0 2014
  Al-Ahli 0 2 1985–86, 2012
  FC Seoul 0 2 2002, 2013
  Selangor 0 1 1967
  Yangzee1 0 1 1969
  Al-Shorta 0 1 1971
  Al-Rasheed1 0 1 1989
  Yokohama F. Marinos 0 1 1990
  Al-Shabab 0 1 1993
  Oman Club 0 1 1994
  Al-Arabi 0 1 1994–95
  Al-Nassr 0 1 1995
  Dalian Shide1 0 1 1998
  BEC Tero Sasana 0 1 2003
  Al-Karamah 0 1 2006
  Sepahan 0 1 2007
  Adelaide United 0 1 2008
  Zob Ahan 0 1 2010
  Al-Ahli 0 1 2015
Notes
1 Club no longer exists.
2 In 1974 the Israel FA was expelled from the AFC due to political pressure, and became a full UEFA member in 1994. As a result, Israeli clubs no longer participate in AFC tournaments but in their UEFA counterparts instead.

By nationEdit

Performance by nation
Nation Winners Runners-up
  South Korea 11 6
  Japan 6 3
  Saudi Arabia 4 9
  Iran 3 4
  China 3 2
  Israel 3 1
  Qatar 2 1
  Thailand 2 1
  United Arab Emirates 1 3
  Australia 1 1
  Iraq 0 2
  Malaysia 0 1
  Oman 0 1
  Syria 0 1

By regionEdit

Federation (Region) Winners Total
EAFF (East Asia) East Zone 20 23
AFF (Southeast Asia) 3
WAFF (West Asia) West Zone 7 10
CAFA (Central Asia) 3
SAFF (South Asia) 0

Note: Israel clubs, winners of the 1967, 1969 and 1971 editions, are not included.

AwardsEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Al-Mal'ab Newspaper - April 1971 - Champions of Asia Return to Baghdad". Kooora (in Arabic). April 1971. 
  2. ^ "Asian Football Confederation" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 September 2008. Retrieved 26 May 2008. 
  3. ^ "Criteria for Participation in AFC Club Competitions" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2010. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "AFC ExCo okays ACL slots, format". The-afc.com. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  7. ^ AFC Champions League 2018 Competition Regulations (PDF). Asian Football Confederatopm. p. 31. Retrieved 6 December 2017. 
  8. ^ "AFC increases prize money for 2018 club competitions". The AFC. Retrieved 7 December 2017. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 February 2013. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
  10. ^ "AFC Champions League - AFC". The-afc.com. Retrieved 21 July 2015. 
  11. ^ "Chinese firm to sponsor AFC Champions League". Goal.com. Retrieved 21 July 2015. 
  12. ^ "AFC & WSG renew pledge to make Asian football a force as they celebrate 20-year partnership". Wsgworld.com. Retrieved 21 July 2015. 
  13. ^ "PES 2016". Konami-pes2013.com. Archived from the original on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2016. 
  14. ^ "体奥动力接手,PPTV独家直播全部亚冠赛事 -懂球帝". dongqiudi.com. Retrieved 28 February 2017. 
  15. ^ "PES 2016 licenses revealed!". Pro Evolution Soccer. Retrieved 2016-05-05. 

External linksEdit