The flagship competition of Asia will see an increase in the number of participating countries following the AFC Ex Co meeting on TuesdayFollowing the end of the Executive Committee meeting on November 26, AFC have announced the expansion of the region's premier club competition, the AFC Champions League (ACL).
Singapore's Tampines Rovers, are the immediate beneficiaries of the new ruling. The Singapore side's likely participation was reported by Goal Singapore on Monday, and the confirmation was finally announced on Tuesday evening along with the changes to the competition.
The expanded competition will see participation from 19 nations across Asia, as opposed to just 10 for the 2013 season which saw Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande overcome FC Seoul to be crowned as champions and reach the 2013 Club World Cup in Morocco.
AFC's criteria of needing to score at least 600points in their evaluation system to stand a chance of competing in the ACL was fulfilled by just 10 nations, with Thailand being the only Southeast Asian state.
Seven countries, including Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong and India were handed a Champions League spot despite not meeting the criteria, while Iraq and Kuwait also benefitted with a play-off spot each, despite not being evaluated by the region's governing body.
Iran, Saudia Arabia, Japan and South Korea will each have four participants entering the competition at the group stage in 2014. China, despite producing the 2013 champion have seen their four automatic spots reduced to three, with the fourth slot being in the play-off round.
The 2014 competition will also notably be played as two separate zones, East and West, until the semi-final stage. Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, China, Australia and India will be in the East Zone. Iran, Saudia Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Jordan, Oman, Bahrain, Iraq and Kuwait make up the West Zone.
The changes will be in place for the next three years, with the final of the competition also changed to a home and away system till 2016.
The draw for the play-off stage of the competition will take place on December 10, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with the first round kicking-off in early February.
ACL SLOT ALLOCATION FOR 2014