Kuala Lumpur: Forty-four nations will find out their AFC U-23 Championship 2016 qualifying opponents during an official draw to be held in the Malaysian capital city on Thursday.
The draw will begin at 11am (Malaysia time, GMT8+) at AFC House for the 16-nation biennial competition, which was launched as the AFC U-22 Championship last year, and subsequently renamed as the AFC U-23 Championship.
The seeding for the draw is based on the rankings of the AFC U-22 Championship Oman 2013 with Afghanistan, Brunei and Mongolia, who did not participate in Oman 2013, being seeded as the lowest-ranked teams during the draw.
Qatar, the hosts of the AFC U-23 Championship 2016 Finals, will not participate in the qualifying competition which is divided into two zones – The West Zone for participating nations from the West and South Central regions, and the East Zone for East Asian and ASEAN nations.
There will be three groups of five teams and two groups of four teams in the West Zone (total five groups, 23 teams) while the East Zone will have five groups of four teams (total five groups, 20 teams).
Ten group winners and five best-second placed teams from all groups will qualify for the final competition (total 15 qualifying teams).
Iran, Bangladesh and Pakistan will be the hosts for the West Zone while the East Zone qualifying competition will take place in China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Chinese Taipei. These hosting nations will be drawn into separate groups.
Iraq claimed the inaugural AFC U-22 Championship title when they beat Saudi Arabia 1-0 (pictured), while Jordan claimed third place by downing Korea Republic 3-2 in a penalty shootout following a 0-0 draw in regulation time.
The AFC U-23 Championship 2016 will serve as the Olympics qualifiers in every alternate edition. The top three teams from the 2016 edition will represent Asia at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.