The tournament will kick-off from February next year.
The AFC Cup 2020 is all set to take place from February 2020 onward and the groups have been set accordingly, with either of I-League champions Chennai City FC or Indian Super League (ISL) runners-up FC Goa all set to participate in Group E representing their country.
Bengaluru FC could become the second Indian participating side Group E, if they are able to successfully qualify for the tournament by prevailing in the qualification stages beforehand. They will take on either Defenders FC (Sri Lanka) or Paro FC (Bhutan) in the preliminary round 2 qualifying fixtures. Should the Blues prevail, they will face either Maziya S&RC (Maldives) or last season’s AFC Cup semi-finalists Abahani Dhaka (Bangladesh) in the final playoff qualifying rounds to ascertain their qualification.
Chennai City will be participating in the AFC Champions League qualifying rounds, which are all set to take place from just over a month’s time. However, the road to the Premier Asian continental championship is going to be a tough one for Akbar Nawas’ side.
AFC Cup 2020 Draw
Chennai City FC in ACL Qualifiers
The Lions will take on Bahrain Premier League champions Al Riffa Sports Club on January 14 in the first preliminary qualifying round. If they are able to defeat them, they’ll face Iranian side Shahr Khodro FC in the second preliminary playoff round before they get to face Qatari giants Al-Sailya FC in the final playoff round.
In a scenario where Chennai City FC manages to defeat every team in the Qualifiers, the defending I-League champions be able to get a spot at the group stages of the AFC Champions League. If they get a spot, then FC Goa will be granted a place in the AFC Cup instead of them as they were the Indian Super League runners-up and won the Super Cup as well.
It’ll incidentally be the first time the Gaurs will participate in an AFC tournament in their history, and they might face old foes Bengaluru FC in the group. Rounding off Group E alongside either Chennai City or FC Goa and possibly the ISL champions will be Bangladesh Premier League defending champions Bashundhara Kings and Maldives giants TC Sports Club. However, if Chennai City does not qualify for the AFC Champions League and plies their trade at AFC Cup 2020, FC Goa will not be taking part in the tournament.
Chennai City had faced Bashundhara Kings in the 2019 Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup, playing out a heated game in which Katsumi Yusa was allegedly racially abused by the referee. So if they’re to face off again in the AFC Cup, fireworks are guaranteed between the two sides.
The other AFC Cup group stages have also been set off by not formally confirmed as many sides will be participating in the Champions League qualifiers prior to it. Last season’s semi-finalists Altyn Asyr from Turkmenistan will again be participating in the tournament this season, as they’ve been placed alongside Istiklol FC, Dordoi FC and the winners of the central Asian playoffs.