In a groundbreaking announcement, the Asian Football Confederation revealed on Friday that Saudi Arabia is set to host the inaugural editions of the Asian Champions League Elite finals for the first two years of the competition’s launch. This development comes as part of a comprehensive overhaul of club competitions in Asia, introducing a revamped elite club competition to replace the existing Asian Champions League.
Scheduled to commence in September of the upcoming year, the revamped competition will feature the top 24 clubs in the region, divided into two leagues of 12 each, spanning East and West Asia. The clubs will engage in home-and-away fixtures to secure a spot in the round of 16. The successful eight teams will then progress to a centralized final round, where quarter-finals, semi-finals, and the ultimate showdown will be contested in a single-leg format.
This strategic move is accompanied by a significant boost in the prize money for the continent’s premier club event. The top prize has surged from $4 million to a remarkable $12 million, adding further allure to the prestigious competition.
Saudi Arabia clinched the hosting rights for the first two years of the Elite finals, surpassing a competing bid from the Iraq Football Association. The Asian Football Confederation, in a statement, attributed this decision to the evaluation of infrastructure and accommodation requirements. Moreover, the Saudis have received provisional hosting rights for an additional three years, pending an AFC review of the initial seasons.
This accolade adds to Saudi Arabia’s growing list of hosting privileges, including the upcoming FIFA Club World Cup and being the sole nation bidding to host the 2034 World Cup finals. The country has also secured hosting rights for the 2027 Asian Cup finals and is slated to organize the 2034 Asian Games, reinforcing its status as a key player in the global sporting landscape.