The growth of Asian football is set to continue along at a rapid pace, with the Asian Football Confederation announcing the expansion of both the Asian Champions League and AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
The Asian Champions League will now grow to 40 clubs from 2021, up from its current 32 – with the growth to come from the addition of a single group each in the East and West regions.
But it won't mean any more ACL spots for the top six member associations, with other counntries getting the nod instead.
Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal are set to meet across the two legs of the 2019 ACL’s final from November 9.
The AFC also announced the AFC Women’s Asian Cup – which doubles as Women’s World Cup qualifying for the confederation – will expand from its current allotment of eight nations to 12 from 2022.
Chinese Taipei, India and Uzbekistan are currently bidding for the coming tournament, which Japan will enter as defending champions after defeating Australia 1-0 in the 2018 final.
Australia, Japan and South Korea – possibly alongside North Korea – have all expressed an interest in bringing the 2023 Women’s World Cup to Asia.
“We were the first Confederation to have at least five women ExCo Members and one of the few to appoint a woman referee to men’s competitions in the AFC Cup.” AFC President Saoud Al Mohannadi said.
“And one of our Executive Members, Kanya Keomany, will be the first female match commissioner to be appointed for a men’s club competition final - the AFC Cup final at the start of next month.
“The start of the new Commercial cycle, with our exclusive partners, DDMC Fortis, is the perfect time to launch this new era in Asian football.
“It will be an era of excellence and inclusiveness.”