India lose Champions League direct spot; will get two AFC Cup slots
The AFC has introduced new reforms to better Asian football, but India has certainly been handed the shorter end of the stick in the process.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has introduced strategic reforms to elevate football in the continent. In the process, the governing body has brought into existence a tier-system where the clubs will vie for a spot in three competitions, as compared to the current two (Champions League and AFC Cup).
However, India has certainly been handed the short end of the stick with these new changes as its Champions League spot has ceased to exist.
According to the fresh rankings by Footy Rankings, India is currently placed 17th amongst 47 member associations (MA) spread across Asia. "It has been approved that the Club Competitions Ranking to determine the Slot Allocation for the 2024/25 season onwards will be based on the performance of the MAs' participating clubs from the previous eight years (with weighted value) to better reflect their historical performance," read a 23rd December, 2022 press release by AFC.
Moreover, the slots for the clubs of each Member Association will now be distributed amongst a three-tier competition system. The first-tier will be the AFC Champions League, the second the AFC Cup, and there will be a third competition.
What this means for India is that it will lose its direct Champions League spot from the 2024-25 season. It will, however, now have two AFC Cup slots, one direct and one indirect via play-offs.
After this new system is implemented, the ACL will now have 24 teams, 12 from each zone (East and West), the AFC Cup will host 32 teams, while the third-tier competition will host 20 teams. It is important to keep in mind that these changes will come into place from the 2024-25 season.
For next season, that is the 2023-24 season, certain play-offs will take place, as announced by AIFF earlier in 2022, to determine the clubs who will represent the country in the continental competitions.
The playoff for the AFC Champions League 2023-24 spot will be played between the ISL Shield winners of 2021-22 and 2022-23, the AFC Cup 2023-24 direct spot will be played between the winners of I-League 2021-22 and Super Cup 2022-23, and the AFC Cup 2023-24 playoffs stage spot will be played between winners of ISL 2021-22 and 2022-23.