In this document you can find my personal proposal for a New format of AFC international club competitions

AFC Champions League
AFC Asian Super Cup
AFC President Cup

For every competition you will be able to find a simulation from preliminary stage till the final. At the end of this document you can also find a proposal for an expansion of foreign players quota in international AFC Competitions


Download the proposal (Click Here)

The reason Behind this Study

 I made this proposal to give you my idea of new format of International competitions, hoping you can share and help to start a discussion. I wish that Asian international competitions in the future can develop and hope that some of the ideas i wrote in this basic proposal can help to reach this purpose.

Despite a very exciting environment with the AFC Champions League, i have the personal impression that with the current format of international competitions is very difficult to generate a growth and rise the interest of sponsors and audience.

Format Issue

Until AFC Champions League won’t change, Asian football difficultly will make the next step to be more competitive, specially the clubs from developing football countries

Not everyone got the same opportunity. For example Playoff rounds in the AFC Champions League are just a single leg match in the home ground of the club with the best ranking nation. Like this, Chiangrai United (Thailand) that drew 0-0 against Sanfrecce Hiroshima (Japan) lost at penalty kick after extra times, but in a fair competition they had to play second leg in Thailand. Also, Al Quwa Al Jawiya (Iraq) lost 2-1 in Uzbekistan against Pakhtakor Tashkent but they didn’t had the chance of a match in Raqqa where they may had the chance to achieve a result considering the goal scored in the away match. At least the third round of playoff in the AFC Champions League should be a double leg match.

There are some nations that are going to reach next levels: for Thailand, in the last two seasons, Muanghtong and Buriram were able to reach knock-out stage, while Al Quwa Al Jawiya won for three years in a row the AFC cup and Iraq teams, as showed by Al Zaawra this year in the ACL group stage, are able to compete at highest level. The problem is that nations like Thailand and Iraq bring directly one club at group stage, but others who lose the playoff stage can’t be relegated in the AFC Cup, something that  happen for Vietnamese or Indonesian clubs (who doesn’t entry automatically at ACL group stage). Like this, Bankok Utd, Chiangrai, Perak and Al Quwa Al Jawiya can’t play AFC Cup and get more international experience. We can understand (with the current format) that a Japanese or Korean team can be too strong for AFC Cup, but this consideration can’t be valid for Thailand or Malaysia clubs.

Economic and Audiance Issue

The prize money of both competitions is very poor: the team who win ACL can get only 4 millions dollars while the one who can achieve the AFC cup only 1.5 million. The growth of the prize money in the last year was almost insignificant. It is necessary to rethink both competitions to be more attractive for sponsors and broadcasters.

The average attendance decreased in the last years, from the peak of 2015 season with more then 16.854 spectators to the last two seasons where the average attendance was 14.126 in 2017 and 14.897 in 2018, resulting an average loss of 2.000 spectators for every match; 156.000 in total. Talking about East zone, most of matches in South Korea and Australia are attended most of times by less then 5.000 spectators, while Japanese clubs can an average of 10.000 spectators. Only Chinese club can have a big crowd with more then 20.000 spectators. While big nations fail to attract big crowds, it’s interesting to analyze numbers of Asean teams: this season Johor Darul Tazim (Malaysia) attracted 35.000 spectators during the three group stage matches, while Buriram United 27.000. In the AFC Cup, Indonesian Teams reached some very high peaks: in 2018 edition the match against Johor attracted more then 60.000 spectators, while in 2017 the group stage match against Becamex attracted 35.000 spectators.

What can be the solution?

AFC should renew both competitions with a new format, completely different from the previous ones.
In my proposal you can find AFC Champions League increase to 36 Teams, with 4 groups of 9 teams each for a total of 8 rounds, including in this way more teams from developing football countries.
For the AFC Cup, as you will read in the proposal it may become a knock-out stage competition with 64 teams (32 from West and 32 from east) with home/away matches with clubs from every nation.
In this Way AFC may think to restore the Asian Super Cup between the winner of Champions League and the winner of AFC Cup

Increase the number of foreign Players

Recently many Leagues in Asia increased the numbers of foreign players allowed in the pitch
Saudi Arabia 7 (no country limitation)
Japan 5 (and also, players from ASEAN counties doesnt count as Foreigners)
South Korea added a slot for ASEAN Players turning to a 3+1+1 rule
Qatar Added slot for players from Arab countries turning to a 3+1+1 rule

In international competitions AFC can increase the number of foreign players to a 3+2+1 Rule
3 Foreign players with no country limit
2 Foreign players from AFC Countries
1 Foreign player from AFC Countries excluding: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Uae, Iran, Uzbekistan, Japan, South Korea, Australia, China

The advantages:

Players from developing football countries can have more chances to perform in a major Asian league and improve. Positive example: Cong Phuong Nguyen – From Vietnam League to Incheon United in South Korea to Sint Truiden in Belgium First Division.

Increase the Mutual interest for audiance and broadcasters for the experience of players from developing countries in major leagues Positive example: Chanatip Songkrasin, the Thai National Team Player in Japan, at Condadole Sapporo, created a sports tourism system for Thai supporters to Japan

Allow experienced players from major Asian leagues to play in developing leagues can help to increase the level of local players Positive example (in Thai League): Go Seul Ki (Port FC) Lee Yong Rae (Chiangrai Utd) and Hajime Hosogai (Buriram Utd)