The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Executive Committee on Monday restructured the Asian club football structure in a virtual meeting, chaired by President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, from the 2024-25 season.
The top tier will be called the AFC Champions League Elite (ACLE), followed by the AFC Champions League 2 (ACL2) and the AFC Challenge League (ACGL) as the second and third tiers, respectively.
A total of 76 clubs will be part of the three competitions with 24 teams in ACLE, 32 in ACL2 and the remaining 20 in ACGL.
The AFC also approved the biggest prize money in Asian club football history. The Champions of Asia will now get USD 12 million instead of USD 4 million, an increase of 200 percent while the runner-up will get USD 4 million instead of USD 2 million.
“Our club competitions are already amongst the best and most lucrative in Continental football, and today the AFC is embarking on a new and historic era with these forward-looking initiatives in both men’s and women’s Asian club football,” Shaikh Salman said.
“The AFC has outlined its ambitions to ensure our teams and players continue to shine through world-class competitions and a major part of this ambition is anchored on our promise to reinvest in our competitions, which is the lifeblood of development for all our Member Associations.”
First-ever Champions League for women
The AFC also announced the introduction of a Women’s Champions League which will be an invitational tournament initially. This will replace the AFC Women’s Club Championship which was started in 2019.
“The AFC Women’s Champions League will feature top-notch action with eligible clubs from all AFC member associations receiving an invitation to participate with a financial distribution model, which will be announced in due course, in place,” the Asian governing body said in a statement.
“The AFC Women’s Champions League is a major step aligned with our strategy to provide a platform to showcase the talent of women players on a Continental stage and we are confident that the competition will empower women in Asian football, contributing to gender equality and breaking down societal barriers, to make a positive impact on the growth of the women’s game,” Shaikh Salman said.
From India, Gokulam Kerala will be one of the most promising teams to shine in the tournament.
The Indian Women’s League 2023 champion failed to continue its Championship campaign last year because of a ban on the All India Football Federation but will participate in this year’s edition.
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