AFC looks to finish club competitions with September return
This year’s AFC Champions League, Asian soccer’s top clubs competition, is to resume in September after being significantly disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Given the ongoing health situation and pressures on the calendar, remaining group stage matches in the AFC Champions League and second-tier AFC Cup will be played at centralised venues and on dates to be confirmed, and all knockout ties, including the final, will be played over one leg, as opposed to home and away, as is customary.
There are also new dates for the postponed Asian qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup in China and for age-group national team and fustal competitions in the rest of 2020.
The AFC Champions League, which involves 32 teams from across Asia, and the AFC Cup have been completely suspended since March, when travel restrictions were imposed in light of the spread of Covid-19, which originated in China.
There have been doubts over whether the competitions could be completed this year but, with the health situation improving and many domestic leagues having resumed or set to return, the AFC is hopeful that matches can be played through to the finals in December.
Windsor John, the general secretary of the confederation, said on Thursday: “I would like to thank all our stakeholders, including our MAs (member associations), the leagues and clubs as well as our commercial and broadcast partners once again for their understanding and patience as well as loyalty and commitment to Asian football during what continues to be a difficult and uncertain time in the history of our game.
“Notwithstanding the challenging times, I am delighted that we are seeing more encouraging progress on the return of many domestic leagues to the field and with them comes an expectation that we can conclude both the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup in the coming months.”
The announcement came on the same day it was confirmed that unplayed matches in the last 16 of the Uefa Champions League and Europa League will be played at the home stadiums of the clubs involved.
The ruling covers unfinished Champions League ties including those between Manchester City and Real Madrid and between Barcelona and Napoli held over from earlier in the year, with the second legs to be played on 7 and 8 August.
Once the last-16 ties are concluded, the Champions League and Europa League winners will be decided in final-eight tournaments in Lisbon and Germany respectively next month. The draw for the quarter-finals took place today.