Thailand are once again set to be Southeast Asia's lone representatives in the continental tournament as other leagues failed to meet the AFC's criteria for admissionSingaporean, Indonesian, and Australian supporters were left broken-hearted on Thursday following the Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) ratification of team announcements for next year's Asian Champions League (ACL).
The two ASEAN nations were on the outside looking in as Thailand was the only Southeast Asian country to earn a spot in the prestigious tournament. Indonesia's Persipura Jayapura participated in last year's qualifying play-off, while Singapore has not been represented in the competition since SAF FC was grouped with Gamba Osaka, Suwon Bluewings, and Henan Construction in 2010.
A-League fans had little to cheer about either, as their allocation was reduced to just one direct slot in addition to a place in the qualifying play-offs, where they will face a Thai club.
Both China and South Korea benefited from the allocation changes, with each country receiving four direct entries. Chinese Super League sides Jiangsu Sainty and Guizhou Renhe are set to make their tournament debut, while the K-League will be sending a slate of four teams that does not include 2012 ACL champions Ulsan Hyundai.
Two of Japan's four direct slots have been decided, while the third team will be decided on Saturday following the J-League's final round and a fourth will be confirmed after January's Emperor's Cup final.
In the West Zone, both Saudi Arabia and Iran picked up one direct slot from 2012 while the UAE lost one. Qatar's four direct slots remain unchanged from last year.
In another change from last year's format, the Round of 16 will be contested over two legs rather than one. Those matches will be held in mid-May, with a one-legged final remaining on the schedule.
AFC Champions League Allocations:
Japan: 4 (all direct slots)
Korea Republic: 4 (all direct slots)
China: 4 (all direct slots)
Uzbekistan: 1 (direct slot)
Australia: 1+1 (direct+playoff)
Thailand: 1+1 (direct+playoff)
Saudi Arabia: 4 (all direct slots)
Qatar: 4 (all direct slots)
Iran: 3+1 (direct+playoff)
UAE: 2+2 (direct+playoff)
Uzbekistan: 1+1 (direct+playoff)