AFC Cup changes format due to Covid-19 pandemic

By Hoang Nguyen   July 10, 2020 | 01:57 am PT
AFC Cup changes format due to Covid-19 pandemic
Players of HCMC FC, one of the two Vietnamese clubs at AFC Cup 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong.
Asian Football Confederation has decided to change the format of AFC Cup group stage and knockout rounds to guarantee safety during the pandemic.

Group stage games will be played in full as usual but at centralized venues decided by AFC. The knock-out stage, including finals, will be shortened, as teams will only play a single game in each round instead of the usual two, at home and away. This format will also be applied to the Asian top league AFC Champions League.

Vietnam has two representatives at AFC Cup this year, HCMC FC and Than Quang Ninh. According to the new tournament schedule, HCMC and Quang Ninh will play the rest of their group stage games from September 23 to 29, which means they would have to play three games in one week.

In group F, HCMC is on top with seven points, joining Myanmar club Yangon United but for a better goal difference. Than Quang Ninh currently lies second in group G with four points, behind Filipino side Ceres-Negros (seven points). However, Quang Ninh still has a great chance to make it past the group stage, as Ceres-Negros is considering withdrawal from the tournament due to financial difficulties caused by the pandemic.

If both Vietnamese clubs can pass the group stage, they would play the ASEAN zone semifinals on October 21 and the final on November 4. After, the inter-zone semifinals will take place on November 24 and 25, followed by the final on December 2. The winner of the inter-zone final will face the West Asia zone winner in the grand finale on December 12 to decide the AFC Cup 2020 champion.

Qualification for World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup 2023, postponed from March, June and September, have been rescheduled for October and November 2020.

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