KUALA LUMPUR – In order to allow for more member associations to be part of Asia’s flagship competition, the AFC Executive Committee on Wednesday approved a proposal to increase the number of teams in the Asian Cup from the current 16 to 24 starting from the 2019 edition.
The committee also ratified the AFC Competitions Committee’s proposal to merge the preliminary qualification rounds for FIFA World Cup qualifiers and AFC Asian Cup.
Depending on the number of entries, the member associations will be divided into eight groups in the preliminary stage. The eight group winners and four second best teams among all the eight groups will qualify for the World Cup final round of qualifiers and also the Asian Cup. Presently, 10 teams battle it out in the final round of FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
The next best 24 teams from the preliminary qualification round (24 teams) will compete for the remaining slots in the Asian Cup finals in six groups of four teams each. The final round of World Cup qualifiers and Asian Cup qualifiers will be separated.
The committee, which met under the chairmanship of AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, also decided to remove the AFC Challenge Cup from the list of AFC competitions. The 2014 AFC Challenge Cup, to be played in Maldives from May 19 to 30, will be the last edition of this competition.