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Qualification:

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54 teams from 34 AFC member countries are eligible to participate.

The countries are ranked according to their performance in the AFC club competitions.

The countries are also split into two regional sections - West Asia and East Asia.

The top 10 countries in each regional zone may enter up to 2 teams in the competition.

The top 2 countries in each regional zone have both their teams entering the competition directly at the Group stage.

The countries, ranked 3rd-10th in each regional zone can enter one of their two teams directly at the Group stage.

The other teams start at various stages in the Qualifying Round and Qualifying Play-offs, depending on the number of participating teams.


Additional notes:

12 of the countries have one team each, participating in the AFC Champions League Qualifying Play-offs. All of those teams are however also included as representatives of their countries in the AFC Cup and participate in the draw for the Group stage. Some of those teams can eventually qualify for the AFC Champions League Group stage. In such case each country has a designated team that is to replace any of its teams that qualify for the AFC Champions League group stage and participate in the AFC Cup group stage instead.




Preliminary Round:

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Format:

10 teams are drawn into 5 pairs.

Winners are decided over two legs, with extra time and penalties if score is level after regular time.



Qualifying Play-offs:

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Format:

5 teams from the Preliminary Round and the other teams that enter the competition at this stage contest 5 places in the Group stage in a knockout format.

The Qualifying Play-offs format depends on the number of teams that enter the competition and are played on a regional basis.




Group stage:

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Format:

5 teams from the Play-off round and the 31 teams that enter the competition at this stage are drawn into 9 groups of 4 teams each (Groups A-I).
- 3 groups in the West Asia Zone (Groups A–C);
- 3 groups in the ASEAN Zone (Groups F–H);
- 1 group in the Central Asia Zone (Group D);
- 1 group in the South Asia Zone (Group E);
- 1 group in the East Asia Zone (Group I)

Teams from the same country cannot be drawn in the same group.

Each team plays the others from its own group twice - home and away - for a total of 6 games each, over 6 game weeks.


Scoring points:

3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, 0 points for a loss.


Table order:

1. points won; 2. points in head-to-head matches; 3. goal difference in hth matches; 4. goals scored in hth matches; 5. total goal difference; 6. total goals scored; 7.* penalties; 8. fairplay ranking; 9. draw.

* - only if exactly two teams are tied and both are on the field of play against each other in the final round.



Qualification for the Knockout stage:

1st place of each group: qualify for the Knockout stage.

2 best 2nd ranked teams from West Asia and ASEAN zones,



Knockout stage:

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Format:

16 teams from the Group stage contest the AFC Cup winner in a knockout format.


8th Finals:

11 teams will play a single-elimination tournament, on a regional basis, until the Inter-zone play-off semi-finals.

Teams are paired according to their Group stage standings.

Winners are decided over two legs.

Tie-breakers for the knockout matches over two legs:

1. aggregate score from the two legs, 2. extra time, 3. penalties.

The group winners are hosts.



Quarter-finals:

8 teams are drawn into 4 pairs.

Teams from the same country cannot be drawn against each other if it can be avoided.

Winners are decided over two legs.

Hosting is determined by the draw.



Semi-finals:

4 teams are drawn into 2 pairs.

Teams from the same country cannot be drawn against each other if it can be avoided.

Winners are decided over two legs.

Hosting is determined by the draw.



Final:

The two Semi-finals winners meet each other with the winner becoming AFC Cup winner.

Winner is decided over one leg, with extra time and penalties if score is level after regular time.

Hosting is determined by the draw.


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