ACL – Asian Champions League

AFC Champions League logoThe Asian Champions League is an annual Asian club football competition, hosted by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). The league sees 32 clubs, usually representing the top Asian leagues, compete against each other in a multi-stage fixture.

Most clubs qualify for the league by finishing at the top of their respective national leagues. In the 2016 Asian Champions League, the two teams to automatically qualify from Australia are Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC, who finished first and second on the A-League table in the 2014-15 season.

ASIAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DRAW

However a number of teams who do not directly qualify are given the opportunity to play off for a spot in the final 32 before the competition begins. Adelaide United are among these teams going into the 2016 competition, and could be the third Australian team to qualify.

Then comes a groups stage which is played as a round-robin home-and-away fixture over multiple weeks, where teams repeatedly play off against the other sides in their group. The 32 teams in the competition are divided into eight groups of four each.

In 2016, Melbourne Victory are in Group G, along with the Suwon Samsung Bluewings, whichever team finishes second in the J-League, and a to-be-determined play-off winner.

Sydney FC are in Group H, along with reigning champs Guangzhou Evergrande, whichever team finishes third in the J-League, and a to-be-determined play-off winner.

After this the tournament progresses to a knockout stage with sixteen teams – the top two teams from each group – playing off in do-or-die matches to determine the tournament champions.

The 2016 competition begins with the first qualifying play-offs on January 27, and will conclude with the final on 26 November.

The champions gain automatic entry to the FIFA Club World Cup.

The most successful club in league history is the Pohang Steelers from Pohang, North Gyeongsang in South Korea. They have won the league three times, most recently in 2009.

The reigning champions are Guangzhou Evergrande who won their second title in 2015, after previously winning in 2013.