AFC Champions League

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AFC Champions League
AFC Champions League.svg
Founded 1967; 49 years ago (1967) (since 2002 in its current format)
Region Asia
Number of teams 45 (total)
32 (group stage)
(24 associations)
Related competitions FIFA Club World Cup
Current champions South Korea Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
(2nd title)
Most successful club(s) South Korea Pohang Steelers (3 titles)
Website Official website
2016 AFC Champions League

The AFC Champions League, commonly known as the Asian Champions League, is an annual continental club football competition organised by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). Introduced in 2002, the competition replaced the Asian Club Championship which had run since 1985 and which had replaced the Asian Champion Club Tournament (1967-1971) after a 14-year hiatus. It is the premier club tournament in Asia, equivalent to the CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores, and the UEFA, CAF, CONCACAF and OFC Champions League competitions.

A total of 32 clubs compete in the round robin group stage of the competition. Clubs from Asia's strongest national leagues receive automatic berths, with clubs from other nations eligible to qualify via the qualifying playoffs and, in addition, they are also eligible to participate in the AFC Cup. Since 2009, the champions do not qualify automatically for the following year competition. The winner of the AFC Champions League qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup.

The most successful club in the competition is the Pohang Steelers with a total of three titles. The reigning champions of the competition are the Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

History[edit]

1967–2002: Beginnings[edit]

The competition started as the Asian Champion Club Tournament, the competition had a variety of different formats with the inaugural tournament staged as a straightforward knockout format. The two most successful clubs of this era were Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv from Israel. The tournament was not held after the 1971 edition for fourteen years due to a lack of professionalism and interest.

In 1985/86 competition marked the return of the premier club tournament rebranded the Asian Club Championship. The format would again change for time to time with a few withdrawals also seen. In 1990, the Asian Football Confederation introduced the Asian Cup Winners Cup, with the 1995 season seeing the introduction of the Asian Super Cup.

2002–present: Champions League era[edit]

The 2002/03 season saw the Asian Club Championship, Asian Cup Winners Cup and Asian Super Cup combine to become the AFC Champions League. League and Cup Winners would qualify for the qualifying playoffs with the best eight clubs from east and west Asia progressing to the Group Stage. The first winners under the AFC Champions League name was Al Ain defeating BEC Tero 2–1 on aggregate. The competition would be postponed for one year due to the SARI Virus.

The tournament was re-launched in 2004 with 29 clubs from fourteen countries. Unlike the previous year, the tournament schedule was changed to March to November. In the group stage, the 28 clubs were divided into seven groups of four on a regional basis, separating East Asian and West Asian clubs to reduce traveling costs, and played double round-robin on a home and away basis. Then, the seven group winners along with the defending champions qualified to the quarterfinals. The quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals were played as a two-legged format, with away goals, extra time, and penalties used as tie-breakers.

The 2005 season saw Syrian clubs join the competition, thus increasing the number of participating countries to 15, and two years later, following their transfer into the AFC in 2006, Australian clubs were also included in the tournament. Owing to the lack of professionalism in Asian football, many problems still existed in the tournament, such as on field violence and late submission of player registration. Many blamed the lack of prize money and expensive travel cost as some of the reasons.

The Champions League expanded to 32 clubs in 2009 with direct entry to the top ten Asian leagues. Each country received up to 4 slots, though no more than one third of the number of teams in that country's top division, rounded downwards, depending on the strength of their league, league structure (professionalism), marketability, financial status, and other criteria set by the AFC Pro-League committee.[1]

The assessment criteria and ranking for participating associations would be revised by AFC every two years, with the most recent ones being approved for the 2011–2012 seasons.[2]

The prize money has been significantly increased since 2009 season and the clubs can earn some prize money even at the group stage depending on their performance. The group stage was conducted in the same manner as the previous four tournaments; this time, however, now eight group winners and eight runners-up qualify to the Round of 16, in which group-winners play host to the runners-up in a single match format, matched regionally.

The regional restriction was lifted from the further stages, though since 2010 season clubs from the same country cannot face each other in the quarterfinals unless that country has three or more representatives in the quarterfinals. The quarterfinals and the semifinals are played in two-legged series, with away goal, extra time, and penalties used as tie-breakers. The final is played as a single match at a pre-determined neutral venue.

In 2013, the Asian Football Confederation made a proposal to revert the final back to a single leg and allow the best twenty-three member associations that meet the ACL Criteria to compete. A final decision on the proposals was made in November 2013.[3] On 26 November 2013, the executive committee decided to keep the Final two legs after the success of the 2013 AFC Champions League Final and expand the competition to nineteen member associations.[4]

Format[edit]

Qualification[edit]

Map of AFC countries whose teams reached the group stage of the AFC Champions League
  AFC member country that has been represented in the group stage
  AFC member country that has not been represented in the group stage
  Not an AFC member

As of 2009 edition of the tournament, the AFC Champions League has commenced with a double round-robin group stage of 32 teams, which is preceded by qualifying matches for teams that do not receive direct entry to the competition proper. Teams are also split into east and west zones to progress separately in the tournament.

The number of teams that each association enters into the AFC Champions League is determined annually through criteria as set by the AFC Competitions Committee.[5] The criteria, which is a modified version of the UEFA coefficient, measures such thing as marketability and stadia to determine the specific number of berths that an association receives. The higher an association's ranking as determined by the criteria, the more teams represent the association in the Champions League, and the fewer qualification rounds the association's teams must compete in.

Tournament[edit]

The tournament proper begins with a group stage of 32 teams, divided into eight groups. Seeding is used whilst making the draw for this stage, whilst teams from the same country may not be drawn into groups together. Each team meets the others in its group home and away in a round-robin format. The winning team and the runners-up from each group then progress to the next round.

For this stage, the winning team from one group plays against the runners-up from another group, and teams from the same association may not be drawn against each other. From the quarter-finals onwards, the draw is entirely random, without association protection. The tournament uses the away goals rule: if the aggregate score of the two games is tied after 180 minutes, then the team who scored more goals at their opponent's stadium advances. If still tied the clubs play extra time, where the away goals rule is no longer applied. If still tied after extra time, the tie shall be decided through a penalty shootout.

The group stage and Round of 16 matches are played through the first half of the year (February–May), whilst the knock-out stage there after is played during the second half of the year (August–November). The knock-out ties are played in a two-legged format, with the exception of the final. From 2014, east and west zones will be kept part until the final with no country protection rule applied.[5]

Allocation[edit]

Teams from only 18 AFC countries have reached the group stage of the AFC Champions League. The allocation of teams by member countries is listed below; asterisks represent occasions where at least one team was eliminated in qualification for the group stage. 32 AFC countries have had teams participate in qualification, and countries that have never had teams reach the group stage are not shown.

Associations Entrants
2002–03 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
East Asia
Australia Australia 2 2 2 2 2 3 1* 3 2* 2*
China China PR 2 2 2 2 2 2 4 4 4 3 4 4 4 4
Indonesia Indonesia 0* 2 2 0 2 0 1* 1* 1* 0* 0 0 0* 0
Japan Japan 2 2 2 2 2 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
South Korea Korea Republic 2 2 2 2 3 2 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
Singapore Singapore 0* 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0* 0* 0*
Thailand Thailand 2 2 2 0 1 2 0* 0* 0* 1* 2 1* 1* 1*
Vietnam Vietnam 0* 2 2 2 1 2 0 0* 0 0 0 0* 1* 1*
Total 8 12 12 8 13 13 16 16 15 15 15 16 16 16
West Asia
Bahrain Bahrain 0* 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0* 0* 0
Iran Iran 2 2 2 2 1 2 4 4 4 3* 3* 4 4 3*
Iraq Iraq 1* 2 2 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0* 0 0
Kuwait Kuwait 0* 2 2 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0* 0* 0
Qatar Qatar 1* 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 3 4 4 4 2* 2*
Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia 1* 2 3 3 2 2 4 4 4 3* 4 4 4 4
Syria Syria 0* 0 2 2 2 2 0 0* 0* 0 0 0 0 0
Turkmenistan Turkmenistan 1* 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
United Arab Emirates UAE 1* 3 2 2 2 2 4 4 4 4 4 3* 2* 3*
Uzbekistan Uzbekistan 1* 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 3* 2* 1* 4 4
Total 8 17 17 17 15 16 16 16 17 17 17 16 16 16
Total
Finals 16 29 29 25 28 29 32 32 32 32 32 32 32 32
Qualifying 53 29 29 25 28 29 35 37 36 37 35 47 49 45

Prizes[edit]

Prize money[edit]

The prize money from the 2016 AFC Champions League:[6][7]

Phase Purse Travel Subsidy
Preliminary stage N/A N/A
Playoff stage N/A $20,000
Group stages Win: $40,000 & Draw: $20,000 $34,200
Round of 16 $80,000 $30,000
Quarter-finals $120,000 $30,000
Semi-finals $200,000 $30,000
Final Winners: $3 million & Runners-up: $1.5 million $60,000

Marketing[edit]

Sponsorship[edit]

Like the FIFA World Cup, the AFC Champions League is sponsored by a group of multinational corporations, in contrast to the single main sponsor typically found in national top-flight leagues.

The tournament's current main sponsors are:

Video game[edit]

The current license holder for the AFC Champions League video game is Konami with the Pro Evolution Soccer series.[13]

Records and statistics[edit]

Finals[edit]

Performances[edit]

By club[edit]

The following table lists clubs by number of Winners and Runners-up in the Asian Club Championship and AFC Champions League.

Performance in the Asian Club Championship/AFC Champions League finals by club
Club
Winners Runners-up Years won Years runner-up
South Korea Pohang Steelers 3 0 1997, 1998, 2009
Saudi Arabia Al-Hilal 2 3 1991, 2000 1986, 1987, 2014
Iran Esteghlal 2 2 1970, 1990–91 1991, 1999
South Korea Seongnam FC 2 2 1995, 2010 1997, 2004
Saudi Arabia Al-Ittihad 2 1 2004, 2005 2009
South Korea Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2 1 2006, 2016 2011
Israel Maccabi Tel Aviv2 2 0 1969, 1971
Thailand Thai Farmers Bank1 2 0 1994, 1994–95
South Korea Suwon Samsung Bluewings 2 0 2001, 2002
Qatar Al-Sadd 2 0 1989, 2011
China Guangzhou Evergrande 2 0 2013, 2015
Japan Jubilo Iwata 1 2 1999 2000, 2001
United Arab Emirates Al-Ain 1 2 2003 2005, 2016
Israel Hapoel Tel Aviv2 1 1 1967 1970
China Liaoning Whowin 1 1 1990 1990–91
South Korea Busan IPark 1 0 1985
Japan JEF United Chiba 1 0 1986
Japan Tokyo Verdy 1 0 1987
Iran PAS Tehran1 1 0 1993
Japan Urawa Red Diamonds 1 0 2007
Japan Gamba Osaka 1 0 2008
South Korea Ulsan Hyundai 1 0 2012
Australia Western Sydney Wanderers 1 0 2014
Saudi Arabia Al-Ahli 0 2 1985, 2012
South Korea FC Seoul 0 2 2002, 2013
Malaysia Selangor 0 1 1967
South Korea Yangzee1 0 1 1969
Iraq Al-Shorta 0 1 1971
Iraq Al-Rasheed1 0 1 1989
Japan Yokohama F. Marinos 0 1 1990
Saudi Arabia Al-Shabab 0 1 1993
Oman Oman Club 0 1 1994
Qatar Al-Arabi 0 1 1994–95
Saudi Arabia Al-Nassr 0 1 1995
China Dalian Shide1 0 1 1998
Thailand BEC Tero Sasana 0 1 2003
Syria Al-Karamah 0 1 2006
Iran Sepahan 0 1 2007
Australia Adelaide United 0 1 2008
Iran Zob Ahan 0 1 2010
United Arab Emirates Al-Ahli 0 1 2015
Notes
1 Club no longer exists.
2 In 1974 the Israel FA was expelled from the AFC due to political pressure, and became a full UEFA member in 1994. As a result, Israeli clubs no longer participate in AFC tournaments but in their UEFA counterparts instead.


By nation[edit]

The following table lists countries by number of Winners and Runners-up in the Asian Club Championship and AFC Champions League.

Nation Winners Runners-up
 South Korea 11 6
 Japan 5 3
 Saudi Arabia 4 8
 Iran 3 4
 China 3 2
 Israel 3 1
 Qatar 2 1
 Thailand 2 1
 United Arab Emirates 1 3
 Australia 1 1
 Iraq 0 2
 Malaysia 0 1
 Oman 0 1
 Syria 0 1

Top scorers[edit]

Year Footballer Club Goals
2002–03 China Hao Haidong China Dalian Shide 9
2004 South Korea Kim Do-hoon South Korea Seongnam FC 9
2005 Sierra Leone Mohamed Kallon Saudi Arabia Al-Ittihad 6
2006 Brazil Magno Alves Japan Gamba Osaka 8
2007 Brazil Mota South Korea Seongnam FC 7
2008 Thailand Nantawat Tansopa Thailand Krung Thai Bank 9
2009 Brazil Leandro Japan Gamba Osaka 10
2010 Brazil Jose Mota South Korea Suwon Samsung Bluewings 9
2011 South Korea Lee Dong-Gook South Korea Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 9
2012 Brazil Ricardo Oliveira United Arab Emirates Al Jazira 12
2013 Brazil Muriqui China Guangzhou Evergrande 13
2014 Ghana Asamoah Gyan United Arab Emirates Al-Ain 12
2015 Brazil Ricardo Goulart China Guangzhou Evergrande 8
2016 Brazil Adriano South Korea FC Seoul 13

Fair Play Award[edit]

Year Club
2008 Japan Gamba Osaka
2009 South Korea Pohang Steelers
2010 South Korea Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma
2011 South Korea Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
2012 South Korea Ulsan Hyundai
2013 South Korea FC Seoul
2014 Saudi Arabia Al-Hilal
2015 China Guangzhou Evergrande
2016 United Arab Emirates Al-Ain

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Retrieved 26 May 2008. [dead link]
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Retrieved 5 January 2010. [dead link]
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "AFC ExCo okays ACL slots, format". The-afc.com. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  6. ^ "AFC Reveals Details of Increased Club Competition Prize Money". the-afc.com. AFC. 10 December 2015. 
  7. ^ "2016 AFC Champions League Competition Regulations" (PDF). the-afc.com. AFC. 28 November 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 February 2013. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
  9. ^ "AFC Champions League - AFC". The-afc.com. Retrieved 21 July 2015. 
  10. ^ "Chinese firm to sponsor AFC Champions League". Goal.com. Retrieved 21 July 2015. 
  11. ^ "AFC & WSG renew pledge to make Asian football a force as they celebrate 20-year partnership". Wsgworld.com. Retrieved 21 July 2015. 
  12. ^ "PES 2016". Konami-pes2013.com. Retrieved 2016-05-05. 
  13. ^ "PES 2016 licenses revealed!". Pro Evolution Soccer. Retrieved 2016-05-05. 

External links[edit]