|This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2010)|
|Founded||1967 (2002 in its current format)|
|Number of teams||32|
|Current champions||Ulsan Hyundai (1st title)|
|Most successful club(s)||Pohang Steelers (3 titles)|
|33px 2013 AFC Champions League|
The AFC Champions League is the premier Asian club football competition hosted annually by Asian Football Confederation (AFC). The tournament is contested among the top thirty-two clubs from the top 10 Asian leagues, two of which must qualify through the playoffs. The champions receive about US$2.25 million in prize money (specific amount depends on record from the group stage) and a spot in the FIFA Club World Cup at the end of the year.
Starting 2009 season, the defending champion no longer receives an automatic berth, forcing them to qualify through their respective domestic league or cup competitions. However, the 2008 champions, Gamba Osaka, and the 2009 champions, Pohang Steelers, both managed to qualify for the following season. In the 2010 edition though, the defending champions, Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma became the first club to fail to secure a spot in the following year's Champions League.
The qualifying round starts in late February and the single-match final takes place in early November at a neutral venue. During the World Cup years, the qualifying rounds tends to start bit earlier.
Pohang Steelers is currently the most successful club in the competition's history, having won their third title in 2009. League-wise, the Korean K-League has 10 titles and is the most successful league competition followed by the Japanese J. League which has 5 previous winners. From 2006 to 2012, The East Asian sides experienced a period of dominance with K-League clubs winning 4 titles (2006, 2009, 2010, 2012) and J.League with 2 titles (2007, 2008).
Asian Champion Club Tournament Era (1967–1972)Edit
The competition started as the Asian Champion Club Tournament back in 1967. Eight domestic champions from eight Asian leagues competed in the inaugural season. With the exception of the 1968 season, the tournament was held annually until 1971. During the first four editions, two Israeli clubs, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Tel Aviv won three championships. In 1972, the tournament was canceled due to a lack of interest which eventually resulted in the withdrawal of all participants except for two. The tournament was not held for the next fourteen years; this was also because professionalism in Asian club football did not start till the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Asian Club Championship Era (1985/86–2001/02)Edit
Using the old European Cup as a model, the tournament returned to Asia during the 1985/86 season with a new name, the Asian Club Championship. Entry was restricted to the domestic champions of certain Asian leagues. Even so, a few withdrawals were seen from year to year. From 1990, AFC introduced the Asian Cup Winners Cup which, as the name suggested, was also restricted to domestic cup winners.
AFC Champions League Era (2002/03–present)Edit
- 2002/03 season
From 2002/03 season the three major Asian club competitions, Asian Champions Cup, Asian Cup Winners Cup, and Asian Super Cup were merged into one larger tournament and re-branded as the AFC Champions League. In the previous years, the domestic champions and cup winners were sorted into two different continental tournaments, but now both domestic champions and cup winners enter into this larger competition. In the first edition, after several qualifying rounds, a total of sixteen clubs participated in group stage. One club from each group hosted the group stage which were conducted with the single round-robin format in a week. Four group winners then qualified to the semifinals, which were the four hosts of the group stage. The semifinal and the final were contested in two-legged aggregate series.
- 2003/04 season
The 2003/04 season was cancelled due to the SARS virus outbreak.
- 2004–2008 seasons
The tournament was re-launched in 2004 season with 28 clubs from fourteen countries. Unlike the previous year, the tournament schedule was changed from 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 two-legged series, 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. With lack of professionalism in Asian football, many problems still existed in the tournament, such as on field violence and late submission of the player registration. Many blamed the lack of prize money and expensive travel cost as the some of the reasons. However, with the introduction of the FIFA World Club Championship in 2005 (now known as FIFA Club World Cup), inclusion of English media via the A-League, and two consecutive wins by Japanese sides, allowed to set up a more competitive and more professional format in 2009.
The Champions League expanded to 32 clubs and direct entry is limited to the top ten Asian leagues. Each country will receive 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 out by the AFC Pro-League committee. The assessment criteria and ranking for participating associations will be revised by AFC every two years, with the most recent ones being approved for 2011–2012 seasons.
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 is 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 is 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.
- Future Plans (2013–)
The Round of 16 will be a two-legged affair starting 2013. Also, currently venue for the final is debated. During the 2009–2010 seasons, the final was held at a pre-determined neutral venue; Tokyo, Japan in both seasons. However, for the 2011–2012 seasons, the final will be held at one of the finalists home stadium determined by the draw of lots. After studying these two cases, the venue for the finals for 2013 season and onward will be determined. 
AFC Final Assessment Ranking for 2009–2012 seasonsEdit
The qualifications are based on AFC Final Assessment Rankings (see below). The assessments was conducted by AFC Pro-League committee during 2006–2008, and is based on the football competitiveness, professionalism, marketability, and financial status of the league and its clubs. Leagues can have up to four spots, but no more than one third of the number of teams in that country's top division, rounded downwards. However, some leagues may have to enter their clubs through qualifying playoffs. The previous year AFC Cup finalists may also enter qualifying play-offs given that their league meets the AFC Champions League criteria.
The new assessment ranking was expected to be published in November 2010, with an intention to it being updated every two years. However, after realizing that newly set criteria are hard to be implemented on time, AFC decided to maintain the existing allocation scheme for two more seasons and postpone the publishing of a new ranking for one year till November 2011. This ranking is expected to be applied for 2013 season onwards.
- AFC Final Assessment Ranking for 2012 season
** Two of the S.League clubs, Etoile FC and Albirex Niigata (S), are based in Singapore, but are foreign clubs. One other clubs from the S. League, the Young Lions, consists of players of the Singapore under-23 national team and is under direct control of the FAS. They are unable to qualify for the ACL.
- The finalists of the AFC Cup of preceding season will also participate in the play-off, provided that they meet the Champions League criteria.
- The loser of AFC Champion's League Play-offs go to AFC Cup.
- Qualifying play-off
2 teams from Iran play semi-finals. The winner of semi-final joins 3 teams from west Asia and 4 teams from east Asia, knock-out round, each 1 leg, on a regional basis, 2 winners from west and 2 winners from east qualify for the group stage. 2 losers from west and 2 losers from east go to AFC Cup group stage.
- Group Stage
A total of 32 clubs are divided into 8 groups of four, based on region i.e. East Asian and South-east Asian clubs are drawn in Group E to H, while the rest are grouped in Group A to D. Each group is a double round robin, for a total of 6 matches for each team. Clubs receive 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, and 0 points for a loss. The clubs are ranked according to points and tie breakers are in following order:
- Points earned between the clubs in question
- Goal Difference between the clubs in question
- Goals For between the clubs in question
- Goal Difference within the group
- Goals For within the group
The eight group winners and eight runners-up qualify to the Knock-out Round.
- Knock-out Round, Round-of-16
Group winners vs group runners-up, 1 leg, on a regional basis.
- Knock-out Round, Quarterfinals & Semifinal
All 8 clubs are randomly matched; however, starting 2010 season, the clubs from same country cannot face each other in the quarter-finals. The games are conducted in 2 legs -home and away- where the aggregate goals decides the match winner. If the aggregate goals cannot produce a winner the away goals rule is used. If still tied the clubs play extra time, where the away goals rule still applies. If still tied after extra time, the game goes to penalties.
One 90-min game at a neutral venue. If tied after regulation, extra-time, penalty kick will be used to produce a winner.
In November 2009, the AFC signed a $1 billion 8-year deal with WSG starting 2013. Most of this money will be allocated to the AFC Champions League.
The budget for the tournament has increased from US $4 million in 2008 ($4317774 million in 2012 US dollars) to US $20 million in 2009 ($21665891 in 2012 US dollars), with the total prize pool now equalling US $14 million. The winner receives US $1.5 million in prize money plus additional winnings collected from the earlier rounds. Clubs receive a travel subsidy for each away match. Thus, for each round of 16 tie, only one club receives a travel subsidy.
- Group stages
- Win: $40,000
- Draw: $20,000
- Loss: $0
- Travel subsidy: $30,000 x 3
- Round of 16
- Participation: $50,000
- Travel subsidy: $40,000
- Participation: $80,000
- Travel subsidy: $50,000
- Participation: $120,000
- Travel subsidy: $60,000
- Champions: $1.5 million
- Runners-up: $750,000
- Travel subsidy: $60,000
|22x20px China PR||2||2||2||2||2||2||4||4||4||3|
|22x20px Korea Republic||2||2||2||2||3||2||4||4||4||4|
|22x20px Saudi Arabia||1||2||3||3||2||2||4||4||4||3|
Asian Champions League FinalsEdit
Asian Champion Club Tournament (1967–1972)Edit
|1967||Hapoel Tel Aviv|
|2 – 1</small>||Selangor FA|
|1969||Maccabi Tel Aviv|
|1 – 0||Yangzee FC|
|1970||Taj (Esteghlal Tehran FC) |
|2 – 1</small>||Hapoel Tel Aviv|
|22x20px Amjadieh Stadium, Tehran|
|1971||Maccabi Tel Aviv|
|2 – 01||Al-Shorta Club|
1 The final was scratched and Maccabi were awarded the championship after Al-Shorta refused to play in the final for political reasons.
Asian Club Championship (1985–2002)Edit
1 The championship was decided in a final pool of four teams.
2 The final was scratched and Yomiuri FC were awarded the championship after Al-Hilal objected to the match officials that were chosen for the first leg and refused to participate in the final.
AFC Champions League (2002/03-present)Edit
- Two-leg finals (2002/03–2008)
- One leg finals (2009–present)
|2009</small>||22x20px Pohang Steelers||2–1||22x20px Al-Ittihad FC||22x20px National Stadium, Tokyo||25,743|
|2010</small>||22x20px Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma||3–1||22x20px Zob Ahan FC||22x20px National Stadium, Tokyo||27,308|
|2011</small>||22x20px Al-Sadd SC||2–2|
|22x20px Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors||22x20px Jeonju World Cup Stadium, Jeonju||41,805|
|2012</small>||22x20px Ulsan Hyundai||3–0||22x20px Al-Ahli SC||22x20px Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium, Ulsan||42,315|
Participating Associations by DebutEdit
Asian Club Championship (included qualifying round)Edit
Italics are withdrawn associations.
AFC Champions LeagueEdit
|Year||New Entry Team(s)|
|2003||22x20px Brunei, 22x20px China, 22x20px Hong Kong, 22x20px India, 22x20px Indonesia,|
22x20px Iran, 22x20px Iraq, 22x20px Japan, 22x20px Jordan, 22x20px Kuwait,
22x20px Kyrgyzstan, 22x20px Lebanon, 22x20px Macau, 22x20px Maldives, 22x20px Qatar,
22x20px Saudi Arabia, 22x20px South Korea, 22x20px Sri Lanka, 22x20px Syria, 22x20px Thailand,
22x20px Turkmenistan, 22x20px United Arab Emirates, 22x20px Uzbekistan, 22x20px Vietnam, 22x20px Yemen
Non Participating AssociationsEdit
- 22x20px Laos
- 22x20px Timor-Leste
- 22x20px Afghanistan
- 22x20px Bhutan
- 22x20px Mongolia
- 22x20px Chinese Taipei
AFC Champions League records and statisticsEdit
- Main article: AFC Champions League records and statistics
The following table lists countries by number of winners and runner-up in AFC Champions League (Asian Club Championship also included).
South Korea is the current leader with 10 titles.
|22x20px South Korea||10||5|
|22x20px Saudi Arabia||4||7|
|22x20px United Arab Emirates||1||1|
The following table lists Clubs by number of winners and runner-up in AFC Champions League (Asian Club Championship also included).
All-time Top 20 AFC Champions League ClubsEdit
This table includes results beyond group stage of AFC Champions League through 2002/03 season, therefore
- it includes quarterfinal appearance by the defending champions during 2004 to 2008 seasons (with + appearance).
- it does not include the old Asian Club Championship
- it does not include Qualifying rounds
- As of Nov 12, 2012 (After Final)
Best Finish Winner Runners-up Semifinals Quarterfinals RankClub Seasons Games W D L GF GA GD Pts W R SF QF 16 G 1 22x20px Ittihad FC 6+2 66 37 14 15 134 67 67 125 2 1 2 1 2 2 22x20px Sepahan FC 8 60 29 15 16 91 63 28 102 1 2 5 3 22x20px FC Pakhtakor Tashkent 10 63 29 11 23 87 79 8 98 2 1 1 6 4 22x20px Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 5+1 51 31 3 17 111 65 46 96 1 1 1 2 1 5 22x20px Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma 5 44 28 8 8 108 47 61 92 1 1 1 1 1 6 22x20px Al-Hilal FC 8 53 25 15 13 86 60 26 90 1 2 2 3 7 22x20px Gamba Osaka 6 45 24 8 13 101 54 47 80 1 3 2 8 22x20px Sadd Sports Club 8 51 19 14 18 68 60 8 71 1 1 6 9 22x20px Al-Shabab Riyadh 6 43 21 7 15 57 47 10 70 1 1 2 2 10 22x20px FC Bunyodkor 5 44 20 10 14 60 57 3 70 2 1 2 11 22x20px Al Ain FC 6+1 47 19 12 16 71 64 7 69 1 1 2 3 12 22x20px Suwon Samsung Bluewings 4 33 20 6 7 63 28 35 66 1 1 1 1 13 22x20px Kashima Antlers 5 32 18 7 7 75 30 45 61 1 3 1 14 22x20px Adelaide United FC 4 34 16 8 10 43 29 14 56 1 1 1 1 15 22x20px Pohang Steelers 4 33 16 7 10 47 30 17 55 1 1 2 16 22x20px Ulsan Hyundai 3 24 17 2 5 45 26 19 53 1 1 1 17 22x20px Shandong Luneng Taishan F.C. 5 32 16 4 12 54 43 11 52 1 4 18 22x20px Zob Ahan Isfahan FC 3 25 14 6 5 32 20 12 48 1 1 1 19 22x20px Al Wahda S.C.C. 6 40 11 15 14 48 58 -10 48 1 1 4 20 22x20px Al-Ahli Jeddah 4 32 13 7 12 56 39 17 46 1 1 2
By Club StatisticsEdit
- Australian clubs in the AFC Champions League
- Chinese clubs in the AFC Champions League
- Iraqi clubs in the AFC Champions League
- Japanese clubs in the AFC Champions League
- Qatari clubs in the AFC Champions League
- South Korean clubs in the AFC Champions League
- Thai clubs in the AFC Champions League
Fair Play AwardEdit
|2008||22x20px Gamba Osaka|
|2009||22x20px Pohang Steelers|
|2010||22x20px Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma|
|2011||22x20px Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors|
|2012||22x20px Ulsan Hyundai|
- ↑ Assessment and participation criteria for 2009–2010 seasons
- ↑ Criteria for Participation in AFC Club Competitions for 2011–2012 seasons
- ↑ AFC Competitions Committee
- ↑ 12 Member Associations keen to join ACL
- ↑ ACL slots maintained
- ↑ Ad-hoc Committee for Professional Clubs
- ↑ 2010 ACL to use country protection for quarter-final draw
- ↑ Sponsorship announcement
- ↑ Emirates Sponsorship extension
- ↑ AFC, WSG Renew Landmark Partnership
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 Staff. Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2012. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
- ↑ Massive cash boost for 2009 ACL
- ↑ AFC Champions League 2009 Regulations
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