The loss of a direct spot is a setback for Indian football clubs.

From the 2024-25 season onwards, Indian football clubs will no longer be able to secure direct qualification into the AFC Champions League group stages. Due to reforms brought in by Asian Football Confederation (AFC), India lost its direct access to the top competition in the continent. In order to refine football in Asia, the governing body has introduced a tier system where football clubs will now compete for spots in three, instead of two, competitions.

In addition to the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup, a third competition is set to start. Expectedly, the first tier will be the ACL, and the second tier will be the AFC Cup. The new competition will be the third tier.

A major setback

Due to these reforms, Indian clubs will not be able to play in the AFC Champions League from 2024. It is a sad outcome for the Indian football fans who still remember FC Goa and Mumbai City FC’s heroics in the competition fondly. Moving forward, India will have two slots for the AFC Cup. One will be direct while the other will include a playoff. 

The number of teams in the ACL will be 24. In which the East and West Zone will have 12 teams each. There will be 32 teams in the AFC Cup from the 2024-25 season onwards. With clubs divided into eight groups of four teams each. Post the home and away fixtures in the Group Stage, the top two sides will advance to the Round of 16.

The knockout stage will take place over two legs with the Final contested in a single-leg decider. The third-tier continental tournament will be a 20-team affair.

India is in 17th place among the 47 member associations in Asia. In a recent press release, the AFC clarified that “It has been approved that the slot Allocation for the 2024-25 season onwards will be based on the performance of the MAs’ (member associations) participating clubs from the previous eight years to better reflect their historical performance.”

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