AFC Champions League and AFC Cup 2022 schedule announced
Mumbai City FC, ATK-Mohun Bagan, and Gokulam Kerala are all set to represent India in the continental competitions in 2022.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced the dates for both the club competitions, i.e., the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup. Three clubs from India will be playing in continental competitions next year. Mumbai City FC qualified to the AFC Champions League by winning the Indian Super League shield and trophy. ATK- Mohun Bagan and Gokulam Kerala will take part in the AFC Cup 2022.
ATK-Mohun Bagan has qualified for the AFC Cup because they finished runners-up in the ISL, while Gokulam Kerala qualified as winners for the I-League. The group stages of the AFC Cup for the West and South Zone begin from May 18 and will continue till May 24, 2022.
Mumbai City FC will be the second Indian club to play in the AFC Champions League group stages after FC Goa this year.
The group stages matches are scheduled to start from May 10, 2022, for the Western Asia region and will be hosted at a centralized venue with the home and away format intact. Mumbai City will be led by coach Sergio Lobera and will be aiming to go one step further than FC Goa and qualify for the knockout stages.
There has been a change in the format of the knockout ties, and the ties will be a single-legged tie instead of the regular two-legged ones. All the matches will again happen in a central venue. The changes have been made to minimize travel for games during the pandemic.
In an official statement, the AFC explained, "Keeping in mind the continued risks and uncertainty of the pandemic and to ensure Participating Clubs are given sufficient preparation time, it was decided that the 2022 season will draw on the extensive experience of the successful and safe staging of the 2020 club competition season as well as the ongoing 2021 edition.
ATK-MB will be taking part in this season's AFC Cup with Bengaluru FC, and if they win the tournament, they will also directly qualify for the AFC Champions League playoffs 2022. No Indian club has ever won the AFC Cup, Bengaluru FC came close when they reached the final in 2016.
Bengaluru FC plays Club Eagles from the Maldives on August 15. The winner qualifies for the group stage of the AFC Cup 2021. There has been no official confirmation on the timings and venue of the match.