Muscat: In order to provide more number of international matches to Member Associations, the AFC Competitions Committee has decided to revamp the confederation’s national team competitions.
The committee, which met on the sidelines of the AFC U-22 Championship on Saturday, also decided to simplify the assessment criteria for participation in AFC club competitions.
Addressing the committee members, AFC President Shaikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa urged the Member Associations to adhere the changes that are proposed in the meeting.
“Competitions are the main products of AFC and I am happy that it is in the good hands,” said AFC President.
“We must market our product and generate income to sustain football across the continent.
“I am sure that the changes that happen will have big impact in Asian football and will benefit our Member Associations,” he added.
Under the new format, Asia’s showpiece event – AFC Asian Cup – will have 24 teams in the tournament proper instead of 16. The 2014 AFC Challenge Cup, to be held in Maldives in May this year, will be the last edition of this competition.
Furthermore, the qualification rounds for FIFA World Cup qualifiers and AFC Asian Cup qualifiers will be merged for the preliminary round. Depending on the number of entries, the Member Associations will be divided into eight groups after preliminary stages. The eight group winners and four second best teams will qualify for the FIFA World Cup final round of qualifiers and also the AFC Asian Cup finals. Presently, only ten teams battle it out in the final round of FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
The second and third-placed teams from the preliminary qualification round (24 teams) will compete for the remaining slots in the AFC Asian Cup finals in six groups of four teams each.
The final round of FIFA World Cup qualifiers and AFC Asian Cup qualifiers will be separated.
Looking at the growing interest of MAs to participate in the next tier of AFC’s club competitions, the assessment criteria has been simplified.
The committee decided to rank the Member Associations based on their national teams and clubs’ performance over last four years in AFC competitions. Thirty per cent of points will be allocated for national teams’ performances while seventy per cent for the clubs’ showings.
Upon confirmation of the rankings, the MAs ranked 1 to 24 will be eligible to receive direct slots in the AFC Champions League. Apart from being in the top 24, the MAs will have fulfil club licensing criteria, have integrity programmes within the MA, organisation of professional league and its governance, facilities as required in the regulations and sound supporting system for logistical matters.
The MAs ranked 25 to 32 will be eligible to participate in AFC Cup group stage while MAs ranked 33 to 47 will be provided with an opportunity to play in AFC Cup playoff stage.
The assessment will be carried out in 2014 and will be applied for 2015 and 2016 while the assessment of 2016 will be applied for 2017 to 2020.
The meeting was chaired by the AFC Competitions Committee chairman and the President of United Arab Emirates Football Association (UAEFA) Yousuf Al Serkal. All decisions of this committee need to be ratified by the AFC Executive Committee to take effect.