• Reuters

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This year’s Asian Champions League and AFC Cup club competitions will be played in centralized group stages due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Asian Football Confederation said on Monday.

Asian soccer’s governing body said the Asian Champions League group stage matches in the west region will be scheduled between April 14-30, while the east region games are planned for April 21-May 7.

The second-tier AFC Cup will kick off in south, central and east zones on May 14, before the west zone matches begin on May 23, with the ASEAN zone scheduled to take place from June 22-28.

The Asian Champions League, which will feature 40 teams for the first time, will stage its two-legged final on Nov. 21 and 27, while the AFC Cup final will take place on Nov. 26.

Bidding invitations and hosting details will be provided to the participating member associations after the group stage draws, which will take place on Wednesday.

The 2020 edition of the Asian Champions League was suspended in March due to the pandemic. All the knockout stages matches after the restart were played in Qatar, including the final at the Al Janoub Stadium.

The AFC has also decided to cancel AFC U-16 Championship Bahrain 2020 and the AFC U-19 Championship Uzbekistan 2020 due to the risks posed by the pandemic.

The next editions of both competitions will be allocated to the same hosts in 2023. Uzbekistan will host the AFC U-20 Asian Cup and Bahrain will host the AFC U-17 tournament.

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