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AFC Cup 2023-24: Group stage draw to be held on August 24, Australian clubs to feature for first time

The official draw for the Group stage of the AFC Cup will be held on Thursday at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) House in Kuala Lumpur.

The 19th edition of the AFC Cup will feature 36 clubs from the five AFC Zones across nine groups and is set to take place between September 2023 and May 2024.

Three-time champion Kuwait SC – the first Kuwaiti club to win an Asian title – has an opportunity to add to its triumphs from 2009, 2012 and 2013. Lebanon’s first-ever Asian club champion, Al Ahed FC, triumphed in 2019 and could be joined in the draw by 2010 winner Al Ittihad Al-Ahli of Aleppo of Syria if the latter prevails in its Playoff.

Two previous finalists – Nejmeh SC of Lebanon (2005) and Altyn Asyr FC of Turkmenistan (2018) – are in the hunt to go one better.

This edition might feature 13 debutants if Al Khaldiya SC of Bahrain wins its Playoff tie successfully. Australian clubs will be involved for the first time in the history of the AFC Cup, represented by Macarthur FC and Central Coast Mariners.

Following the slot allocations that were determined in June, 29 clubs earned direct qualification to the Group Stage based on the AFC Club Competitions Ranking 2021. They will be joined by seven clubs from the preliminary and playoff stages, which will conclude on August 23.

The 36 participating clubs will be drawn into nine groups of four according to their respective Zones.

Groups A, B and C comprise West Zone, Group D consists of South Zone and Group E will be the Central Zone. Groups F, G and H comprise the ASEAN Zone and Group I falls in East Zone

For groups in the West and ASEAN Zones, clubs from the same Member Association (MA) will not be drawn into the same group due to the Country Protection principle. The clubs involved in these two Zones will also be seeded into four pots for the draw by the AFC Club Competitions Ranking and the seeding within their MA; no draw is necessary for the groups in the other three Zones, where the clubs will be allocated by the AFC Club Competitions Ranking of their MA.

Club Pots for AFC Cup 2023-24 Group Stage Draw

West Zone:

Pot 1 – Al Wehdat (JOR), Al Zawraa (IRQ), Al Ahed FC (LBN)

Pot 2 – Kuwait SC (KUW), Al Riffa (BHR), Al Futuwa (SYR)

Pot 3 – Jabal Al Mukaber Club (PLE), Al Kahrbaa SC (IRQ), Nejmeh SC (LBN)

Pot 4 – Al Arabi (KUW), Winner of PO1: Al Khaldiya SC (BHR)/Al Nahda (OMA), Winner of PO2: Al Ittihad Al-Ahli of Aleppo (SYR)/Shabab Al Khalil (PLE)

South Zone (no draw required):

Participating Clubs: Odisha FC (IND), Bashundhara Kings (BAN), Maziya Sports & Recreation Club (MDV), Winner of PO: Mohun Bagan Super Giant (IND)/Abahani Limited Dhaka (BAN); Central Zone (no draw required): Participating Clubs: FC Ravshan (TJK), Altyn Asyr FC (TKM), FC Abdysh-Ata (KGZ), Winner of PO: FC Khujand (TJK)/FC Merw (TKM)


Pot 1 – Haiphong FC/Hoang Anh Gia Lai (VIE), Dynamic Herb Cebu FC (PHI), Terengganu FC (MAS)

Pot 2 – Macarthur FC (AUS), Hougang United (SGP), Bali United (IDN)

Pot 3 – Shan United FC (MYA), Stallion Laguna FC (PHI), Sabah FC (MAS)

Pot 4 – Central Coast Mariners (AUS), Winner of PO1: Tampines Rovers FC (SGP)/Phnom Penh Crown FC (CAM), Winner of PO2: PSM Makassar (IDN)/Yangon United (MYA)

East Zone (no draw required):

Participating Clubs: CPK (MAC), Tainan City FC (TPE), FC Ulaanbaatar (MNG), Monte Carlo (MAC)/Taichung Futuro FC (TPE)

The three group winners and best runners-up from each of the West and ASEAN Zones will proceed to the Zonal Semi-finals, with the winners facing each other in their corresponding zonal final.

The winner in the ASEAN Zone moves on to the Inter-zone semifinals, where it will be joined by the winners of Groups D, E and I. A Knockout Stage draw will be conducted to determine the two ties for this stage. The two winners will then play each other in the Inter-zone final and the victorious team will face the winner of the West Zonal final in the AFC Cup final on May 5, 2024.

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