The Asian Football Confederation, soccer’s regional governing body, has today announced Saudi Arabia will host the finals of the first two editions of its new Champions League Elite, a revamped version of the continent’s top-tier club competition.
The AFC said the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) won hosting rights for the final phase of the competition during the 2024-25 and 2025-26 seasons ahead of the Iraq Football Association after it evaluated “the infrastructure and accommodation requirements, as well as all other key operational aspects needed to stage a tournament befitting the prestige and stature of the continent’s newly revamped premier club competition.”
The governing body added the kingdom has also been provisionally awarded hosting rights for a further three years subject to an AFC review of the initial two seasons.
The competition's inaugural edition, which replaces the existing AFC Champions League, is set to begin in September 2024 with the continent’s top 24 clubs divided into two leagues of 12 across the East and West regions.
Teams will compete home and away for a spot in the last 16, with the eight winners advancing to the final phase in Saudi Arabia, where the kingdom will stage the quarterfinals, semi-finals, and final in a single-leg format.
The first edition of the Champions League Elite final stage is due from April 25 to May 4, 2025.
The AFC said the eventual winners will be awarded “the biggest-ever purse prize” of $12 million – a significant increase from the $4 million currently awarded to winners of this year’s AFC Champions League. Meanwhile, the runners-up of the competition will receive $6 million compared to the $2 million they will receive this season.
The new deal adds to Saudi Arabia’s growing portfolio of hosting rights in soccer, which includes staging world governing body FIFA’s upcoming Club World Cup, which will run in Jeddah from December 12 to 22.
In October, the kingdom became the only country to submit a bid to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup after Australia dropped out of the race. It has also bid to host the Women’s Asian Cup in 2026.