All You Need To Know About The AFC Champions League

The AFC Champions League is the continent’s most successful club competition and, after the AFC Asian Cup, the most beloved among football fans in Asia. Besides collecting a trophy and prize money, the Club World Cup will pit the winners of the AFC Champions League against the continental champions of North America, Africa, Europe, Oceania, and South America. Many teams aspire to win the tournament for this reason. We’ll go over all you need to know about the AFC Champions League today.

What Is The AFC Champions League?

AFC Champions League

The AFC Champions League (ACL) is a continental club football competition taking place annually for Asia’s best teams. It is Asia’s most prestigious club competition, with national league champions (and, in certain circumstances, one or more runners-up) representing their respective national organizations. 

After the Asian Cup Winners’ Cup, Asian Super Cup, and Asian Club Championship were amalgamated in 2002, the Asian Champion Club Tournament was renamed.

40 clubs are competing in the round-robin group stage of the competition. Teams from Asia’s top leagues are automatically invited, although clubs from lower-ranked nations must play in AFC Cup qualifying. The AFC Champions League victor progresses to the FIFA Club World Cup.

Tournament History

The Asian Champion Club Tournament, a tournament for AFC champions, commenced in 1967 and featured a variety of formats, with the first edition being a direct knockout format and the three following editions incorporating a group stage. The AFC was forced to cancel the 1972 edition because two Arab clubs refused to agree to play against Israeli side Maccabi Netanya. Israel was therefore expelled from the association.

In 1985, the Asian Club Championship, Asia’s premier club tournament, returned. The Asian Football Confederation established the Asian Cup Winners’ Cup in 1990 as a competition for the cup winners of each AFC country. The Asian Super Cup was established in 1995 to match the winners of the Asian Cup Winners’ Cup and Asian Club Championship.

The  Asian Super Cup, Asian Cup Winners’ Cup, and Asian Club Championship came together to form the AFC Champions League in 2002–03. The best eight West Asian clubs and the best eight East Asian teams would advance to the group stage, with league and cup winners preparing for the qualification playoffs. After beating BEC Tero Sasana 2–1 on aggregate, Al-Ain became the first team to win the AFC Champions League. In 2004, 29 clubs from 14 countries competed, and the event was moved from March to November.

For the semi-finals, quarter-finals, and finals, a two-legged format was employed, with tie-breakers being away goals, penalties, and extra time. The top seven teams from each group, as well as the defending champions, advanced to the quarterfinals. A two-legged format was utilized for the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and finals, with away goals, extra time, and penalties used as tie-breakers.

In 2009, the Champions League was increased to 32 clubs, with direct entrance into the top ten Asian divisions. Each country received up to four slots based on the strength of their division, professional league system, marketability, financial position, and other criteria established by the AFC Pro-League Committee, however, no more than one-third of the number of teams in their highest division was rounded downwards.

AFC Champions

The group stage was enlarged from 32 to 40 teams in 2021, with five groups comprising four teams in each of the West and East Regions. By 2021, the Iranian side’s problems had attracted public attention. English-language and International Arabic media have documented infringement of women’s rights in Iranian stadiums. Furthermore, the Iranian government barred Iranian women from football stadiums for nearly 40 years. In 2019, Iranian stadiums permitted women to watch football for the first time, but not during ACL games. FIFA had already pressed Iran to allow women inside ACL stadiums. Iran gave in, but only for a limited number of women to see the 2018 World Cup final. AFC investigated the subject in 2021, to allow unlimited attendance whenever Iranian clubs are involved.



In the 2021 season, the AFC Champions League debuted with a forty-team double round-robin group phase, which was followed by qualification matches for clubs that did not receive a direct entry. To go through the competition separately, teams are divided into west and east zones.

The AFC Competitions Committee determines the number of clubs that each organization enters in the AFC Champions League on an annual basis. To decide how many slots an association will get, the system, which is based on a customized version of the UEFA ranking, considers factors such as marketability and facilities. The higher a club’s score on the criteria, the more teams it will have in the Champions League and the fewer qualifying rounds its teams will have to fight in.


Thể thức giải đấu AFC Champions League

The tournament proper kicks off with a group stage that has 40 teams split into ten groups. Teams from the same country are not put in the same group for this stage, as it is determined by seeding. The group stage is composed of two parts, one for the 5 West Asian groups and the other for the 5 East Asian groups. In a round-robin format, each squad plays its group’s other squad both at home and away. In each group, the champion and runners-up proceed to the next round.

In this level, the team that wins through one group fights against the runner-up from another group within their zone. If the two teams are tied after 180 minutes, the team who scored more goals at their opponent’s field goes to the next round. After extra time, if the score remains tied, the away goals rule does not apply. A penalty shootout will be held if the score is still tied after extra time. The East and West zones will be kept separate until the end.

The group stage and Round of 16 matches take place in the first half of the year (February–May), followed by the knockout stage in the second half of the year (August–November). The knockout ties, including the final, are played in a two-legged format.


Only 19 AFC countries have qualified for the AFC Champions League group round. The team allocation by member countries is shown in the table on the AFC main site; asterisks denote occasions when at least 1 team was ousted in qualification before the pool stages. Only 32 AFC countries have reached the group stage, with those that have never qualified being excluded.

List Of ACL Champions

  • Al-Hilal (Saudi Arabia) (3): 1991, 2000, 2019, 2021
  • Pohang Steelers (Korea) (3): 1997, 1998, 2009
  • Esteghlal (Iran) (2): 1970, 1990–91
  • Al-Ittihad (Saudi Arabia) (2): 2004, 2005
  • Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (Korea) (2): 2006, 2016
  • Urawa Red Diamonds (Japan) (2): 2007, 2017
  • Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel) (2): 1969, 1971
  • Suwon Samsung Bluewings (Korea) (2): 2001, 2002
  • Al-Sadd (Qatar) (2): 1989, 2011
  • Guangzhou Evergrande (China) (2): 2013, 2015
  • Jubilo Iwata (Japan): 1999
  • Al-Ain (UAE): 2003
  • Hapoel Tel Aviv (Israel): 1967
  • Liaoning Whowin (China): 1990
  • Busan IPark (Korea): 1985-86
  • JEF United Chiba (Japan): 1986
  • Tokyo Verdy (Japan): 1987
  • PAS Tehran (Iran): 1993
  • Gamba Osaka (Japan): 2008
  • Ulsan Hyundai (Korea): 2012
  • Western Sydney Wanderers (Australia): 2014
  • Kashima Antlers (Japan): 2018


In the 2021 final, the reigning champions, Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia, defeated the Pohang Steelers.

The AFC Champions League, similar to the FIFA World Cup, is sponsored by a consortium of international corporations, in contrast to most national top-flight leagues, which have a single principal sponsor. The tournament’s current primary sponsors are Neom, Konami, and Molten.

As of 1 May 2022, the Edmilson Junior of the Al-Duhail team is a player who scored the most with 8 goals.

In the 2022 AFC Champions League, champions were awarded $4,000,000, while runners-up were awarded $2,000,000. Additionally, each team received a pre-match travel subsidy. 

Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer series currently holds the AFC Champions League video game license. The rival teams are also included in the license.

The 41st season of Asia’s premier club football event (AFC), and the 20th under the name AFC Champions League, is the AFC Champions League 2022. A total of 40 teams participated in the final round, which are the clubs that have achieved high rankings in the national championships of Asia. The championship team of the tournament will automatically advance to the play-off round of the AFC Champions League 2023 without having to play in the preliminary round if they do not qualify for the group stage directly through the domestic tournament. The 2022 AFC has now reached the final. Don’t forget to stay up to date on the latest happenings in this year’s AFC Champions League tournament.