AFC Club Competition Rankings – Explained

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The number of group stage or qualifier slots that a Member Association of the Asian Football Confederation gets in AFC tournaments depends upon their Club Competition Ranking. The Club Competition Rankings of 2019 decided the slots for the 2021 and 2022 AFC tournaments. The rankings of 2021 are all set to decide the slots for 2023 AFC tournaments. Read more for a detailed explanation of these rankings.

AFC Club Competition Rankings - Explained Glan Martins presses FC Goa va Al Wahda AFC Champions League 2021

What is a MA and how are MAs allocated slots?

Members Association, also known as MAs, are ranked according to the AFC Club Competition Ranking.

The AFC Club Competitions Ranking is a technical ranking that ranks each Member Association based on their clubs’ sporting results in the AFC Club Competitions over the previous four seasons.

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After the AFC Club Competitions Ranking has been determined, MAs are divided into the ACL Regional Ranking and the AFC Cup Zonal Ranking, in accordance with their geographic zones. These are the rankings that determine the number of slots allocated to each Member Association. An indirect slot is a qualifier or preliminary slot, while a direct slot means a group stage slot.

What are the Zonal Club Competition Rankings of AFC and how are slots allocated based on these zonal rankings?

All the member associations of the Asian Football Confederation are split into four zones – the South, the East, the West, the Central, and the ASEAN.

For the AFC Champions League, member associations are divided into two zones- ACL West Ranking and ACL East Ranking. MAs from the west, central and southern zones form the ACL West Ranking, and MAs from the east and ASEAN zone form the ACL East Ranking. India, as a MA from the South Zone, is a part of the ACL West Rankings.

The top 12 MAs from the west and east ACL rankings will get direct and indirect slots in the AFC Champions League based on their position in the points table.

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The maximum number of slots that a MA can have in the ACL is four or one-third of the number of clubs in the MA’s top division league, whichever is lower. However, every MA can have only 3 direct or group stage slots.

For the AFC Cup, MAs are divided into a total of 5 zones- East, West, South, Central, and ASEAN. India falls in the South zone.

The top 12 MAs from the West and ASEAN zone are provided with direct and indirect slots while the number is reduced from 12 to 10 for MAs from the East, South, and Central zone. Out of this only the top 3 from the latter zones have the chance to get direct slots in the AFC Cup.

Member Associations between rankings 6th and 12th in the AFC Champions League zonal rankings hold indirect or qualifiers slots for the AFC Champions League. These clubs will get direct slots into the AFC Cup group stage if they fail to qualify for the ACL through the qualifiers. In case any of these clubs manage to qualify for the ACL group stage, the next standby club from that MA can participate in the AFC Cup group stage.

The remaining slots are filled based on the results of the AFC Cup qualifiers.

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The maximum number of slots that a MA can have in the AFC Cup is two or one-third of the number of clubs in the MA’s top division league, whichever is lower.

How are the points for AFC Club Competition Ranking calculated?

As mentioned before, AFC calculates AFC Club Competition Ranking on basis of the Member Association’s participating clubs’ performances in the AFC Cup.

For AFC Champions League-:

3 points are given for a win, one point for a draw, and zero points for a loss are given to every club playing in the group stages. Three additional points are given to the clubs that advance to the knockout stages.

Clubs playing in the ACL Preliminary stage 1 and 2 and Playoff Stage are provided 0.3 bonus points for entry and each win (except by Penalty kick) will earn them 0.3 points while each draw amounts to 0.15 points.

If the member association has more than 1 club in the Group Stage, then the average points of clubs will be the final points for the respective MA.

For AFC Cup-:

3 points are given for a win, one point for a draw, and zero points for a loss are given to every club playing in the group stages. Three additional points are given to the clubs that advance to the knockout stages.

Clubs playing in the AFC Cup Preliminary stage 1 and 2 and Playoff Stage are provided 0.3 bonus points for entry and each win (except by Penalty kick) will earn them 0.3 points while each draw amounts to 0.15 points.

For the knockout stages, however, AFC allocates points based on their AFC zone.

AFC Cup (West/Central/South/East) are awarded 4.8 points for each win and 1.6 points for each draw in the Knockout Stage

AFC Cup (ASEAN) are awarded 2.67 points for each win and 0.89 points for each draw in the Knockout Stage

If the member association has more than one club in the Group Stage, then the average points of clubs will be the final points for the respective MA.

To be noted-: One AFC Cup point is equivalent to one-third of an AFC Champions League point. This means that when the final points are calculated for any MA, total AFC Cup points earned are reduced to their one-third.

What does the average points calculation mean?

The amount of points based on which a MA’s final ranking will be determined is the average of the points earned by their clubs in the group stage of AFC tournaments divided by the total number of clubs participating in the group stages that season. Added to this will be any point that they earn in the qualifying rounds or prelims. This means, more the number of clubs a MA has in AFC tournaments, the more will they have to earn points to stay higher in the rankings.

AFC Club Competition Rankings - Explained points

India and Club Competition rankings-:

As of 2019, India was ranked 15th in the ranking system thus getting two slots in the AFC Cup for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. After the expansion of the AFC Champions League, India’s superior ranking in the west ranking of ACL meant they received one group stage slot in the AFC Champions League as well.

Currently, the winner of the ISL group stage gets the AFC Champions League slot while the winners of the playoffs play the AFC Cup qualifiers. The winners of the I-League are provided with a group stage slot in the AFC Cup.

The performance of Indian clubs in AFC tournaments in 2021 and 2022 will be extremely crucial for us to maintain the same number of slots that we currently have or to get more slots.

AFC Club Competition Rankings - Explained 1612617594 ofc atkmb

ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru are all set to compete in the South Asia Zone Group-D of the AFC Cup group stage in case the latter qualifies. However, only one club from Group D can qualify for the Inter-Zone semi-finals. Bangladesh’s Basundhara Kings is also in Group D, and given that Bangladesh is the closest competitor to India in the Club Competition Rankings after Tajikistan, the stakes will be high when Bengaluru and ATKMB meet them. The best scenario for Indian football is that both the clubs finish top two in Group D and the qualifying club reaches the Inter-Zone finals at least.

In case, either ATK Mohun Bagan or Bengaluru FC go on to win the AFC Cup, they will get a qualifier slot in the ACL next season, irrespective of their performance in the ISL.

FC Goa, playing in the AFC Champions League, has already amassed two important points after holding Al Wahda and Al Rayyan to stalemates. FC Goa getting a win in their upcoming fixtures or even some draws can help India massively in the Club Competition Rankings so that we can hold on to our current slots or even push for two group stage slots in the AFC Cup 2023.


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AFC Club Competition Rankings - Explained b8af641dd0fdfdc3beaf152e1ad6503c?s=96&d=monsterid&r=g
Anurag Guha
Football fanatic and a sports buff.

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