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AFC to stage 2021 club competitions at centralised locations
The largest-ever Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League and the expanded AFC Cup will see its upcoming group stages played in centralised venues this season.
While the specific hosts cities for the competition fixtures have yet to be confirmed, the AFC Champions League will be held in East and West Regions while the AFC Cup will be staged across the five AFC Zones.
Ahead of the group stage draws for the two competitions, the AFC has advised that bidding invitations and other hosting details will be given to participating member associations once the draw is complete.
The AFC has advised that its AFC Champions League Group Stage West Region matches will be scheduled between 14th and 30th April while the East Region are planned for 21st April and 7th May.
Similarly, the centralised AFC Cup Group Stage will kick off in the South, Central and East Zones on 14th May before the West Zone commences on 23rd May, with the ASEAN Zone scheduled to take place from 22nd to 28th June. Each team in this year’s AFC Cup Group Stage will compete in a single match round-robin format.
The AFC Champions League 2021 knockout matches in the Round of 16 are scheduled for 13th to 15th September and the Quarter-finals to be played from 27th to 29th September. Both rounds will be played as single matches. The AFC Champions League Semi-finals will be over two legs on 19th and 20th then 26th and 27th October.
Meanwhile, the AFC Cup 2021 West Zonal Semi-finals will be played on 13th and 14th September with the second-leg scheduled to take place two weeks later. The ASEAN Zonal Semi-finals will take place on 10th and 11th August over a single leg.
The two-legged Zonal final involving South, Central and East clubs is scheduled for 11th and 25th August, with the ASEAN single-leg Zonal final planned for 25th August, before the two-legged West Zonal Final takes place on 20th October and 3rd November.
The two-legged Inter-zonal Semi-Finals is scheduled to be played on 14th and 15th September with the return ties on 28th and 29th September with the Inter-zonal Final to be staged on 20th October and 3rd November.
The AFC Champions League, which will feature 40 teams for the first time in history, will reach its grand finale with the two-leg Final on 21st and 27th November, while the AFC Cup Final will take place on 26th November.
Commenting on the match schedule, AFC General Secretary, Dato’ Windsor John stated “the AFC is most grateful for the support of the AFC Competitions Committee, the Member Associations and the participating clubs in producing this schedule for the biggest and most inclusive AFC Champions League and AFC Cup in history.
“Once again, the AFC will put the safety and welfare of all its stakeholders as its overriding priority, but we demonstrated with the successful AFC Champions League in 2020 that the unity, solidarity and strong leadership of the AFC can deliver its club competitions in the most challenging of times.”
Last year’s AFC Champions League was suspended in early March due to COVID-19 but resumed in September as Qatar hosted the finale of the west zone tournament. Qatar later made an agreement with the AFC to host the remainder of the eastern section of the competition.
Earlier this month, the AFC launched new logomarks and visual identities for its major national team tournaments - the AFC Asian Qualifiers, AFC Asian Cup, AFC Women’s Asian Cup, AFC U23 Asian Cup, and the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup.
Images: The AFC Cup and AFC Champions League trophies (top) and the AFC's new branding for its trophies (below). Credit: AFC.
20th January 2021 - FIFA to change Club World Cup schedule after withdrawal of Auckland City
6th January 2021 - Singapore Sports Hub looks to stage more live events in 2021
21st December 2020 - Asian Football Confederation announces renewal of Continental Tyres partnership
14th December 2020 - 2022 Hong Kong Gay Games organisers expect 90,000 attendees
30th November 2020 - Design revealed for new 63,000-seat Dalian Stadium
25th November 2020 - Qatar to stage FIFA Arab Cup as World Cup 2022 test event
15th September 2020 - New Shanghai football stadium ready for match action
6th June 2019 - China named 2023 AFC Asian Cup hosts
23rd January 2017 - Reigning AFC Champions League holders excluded from 2017 tournament
16th March 2016 - Football attendances rise in China and India
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