The anticipation for the AFC Cup™ 2023/24 season reached its zenith as the Official Draw took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Thursday. With a thrilling lineup of teams and intense matchups, this season promises to be an absolute spectacle.
The reigning champions of the Isuzu UTE A-League Men, Central Coast Mariners, secured their entry into the AFC Cup™ following their triumphant victory in the 2022/23 Grand Final held in June. Joining them is another formidable Isuzu UTE A-League Men side, Macarthur FC, making their debut appearance after clinching the Australia Cup 2022.
Since 2021, the AFC Cup™ has reserved a coveted spot for the winner of Australia’s national cup competition, adding to the prestige of the tournament. This year, a total of 36 teams, including the joint-record three-time champions Kuwait SC, have been divided into nine groups representing the five AFC zones.
The West Zone teams, set to embark on their journey in Groups A, B, and C, will compete for supremacy. The top three group winners and the best runners-up will advance to the Zonal semi-finals, setting the stage for intense battles ahead.
In Group A, the competition includes 2019 champions Al Ahed FC from Lebanon, Syria’s Al Futuwa, Jabal Al Mukaber Club representing Palestine, and Oman’s Al Nahda. Meanwhile, Group B features Jordan’s Al Wehdat, Kuwait SC, Al Kahrbaa SC hailing from Iraq, and Syria’s Al Ittihad Al-Ahli of Aleppo. Group C showcases the talents of Al Zawraa of Iraq, Bahrain’s Al Riffa, Nejmeh SC from Lebanon, and Kuwait’s Al Arabi.
The ASEAN Zone is equally action-packed across Groups F, G, and H, with fierce competition determining the qualifiers for the Zonal semi-final. Group F brings together Dynamic Herb Cebu FC of the Philippines, Macarthur FC of Australia, Myanmar’s Shan United FC, and Phnom Penh Crown FC representing Cambodia. Group G features Malaysia’s Terengganu FC, Indonesia’s Bali United, Philippines’ Stallion Laguna FC, and Australia’s Central Coast Mariners. In Group H, Vietnam’s Haiphong FC, Singapore’s Hougang United, Malaysia’s Sabah FC, and Indonesia’s PSM Makassar will vie for a coveted spot in the automatic ASEAN Zonal semi-final.
Groups D (South), E (Central), and I (East) have been formed without the need for a draw. Group D boasts the participation of India’s Odisha FC, Bangladesh’s Bashundhara Kings, Maldives’ Maziya Sports & Recreation Club, and India’s Mohun Bagan Super Giant.
The Central Zone’s Group E showcases the talents of FC Ravshan from Tajikistan, Altyn Asyr FC from Turkmenistan, FC Abdysh-Ata of Kyrgyz Republic, and FC Merw from Turkmenistan, all vying for a solitary spot in the Inter-Zone semi-finals.
The captivating competition in Group I, representing the East Zone, features Macau’s CPK, Tainan City FC from Chinese Taipei, Mongolia’s FC Ulaanbaatar, and Taichung Futuro FC, also hailing from Chinese Taipei.
The road to the Inter-Zone Semi-finals will see the ASEAN Zone winners advancing, along with the victors of Groups D, E, and I. A Knockout Stage draw will determine the two enthralling ties at this stage.
The Inter-zone Final will witness the clash of the two victors, leading to a grand culmination in the AFC Cup 2023/24 Final on May 5, 2024. The winners of the West Zonal Final will meet the victors of the Inter-zone Final to vie for the prestigious title.
As the AFC Cup™ 2023/24 promises an exhilarating journey, fans around the globe are eagerly awaiting the kickoff of this football extravaganza.