Kuala Lumpur, July 1 (BNA): Today, the AFC Competitions Committee, in its first meeting for the period 2023-2027, approved several key decisions related to football for national teams and club competitions in light of the strategic strategy. Repairs to be implemented from the 2024/25 season.
Chaired by Committee Chair Dr Tran Quoc Tuan, the committee met in Bangkok, Thailand on the eve of the final of the AFC U-17 Cup in Thailand 2023 between the Republic of Korea and Japan, and deliberated on the participation of the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association (NMIFA). The AFC said on its website that the upcoming qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup and the 2027 Asian Cup are in Saudi Arabia.
It was noted that the NMIFA, which is a regular member of the AFC and has yet to obtain regular FIFA membership, was eligible to participate in the 2027 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in Saudi Arabia but not the 2026 World Cup.
Therefore, it has been agreed that NMIFA may participate in the AFC Asian Cup™ by entering the qualifying round stage, where they will join the losing teams from the Preliminary Joint Qualification 1 (PJQR1) to compete for a place in the AFC Asian Cup. Final round of the 2027™ Qualifiers.
The committee members also agreed to review the format of the Asian final following the FIFA Council’s decision on March 14, 2023, to divide the international match calendar in September/October 2025 into two windows with two match days each.
The Asian Qualifiers, consisting of the third and fourth place (six teams in total) from each group of the Asian Qualifiers – divided into two groups of three teams each, will compete in a single round robin format at a central venue (X).
The two first-placed teams from the Asian groups will qualify for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, while the two second-placed teams from both groups will now compete in a two-legged match to decide which team will represent the AFC in the Intercontinental Qualifiers. .
In addition, considering the latest information from FIFA about the intercontinental window of the 2026 World Cup, the Committee agreed to amend the schedule for the 2026 World Cup Asian Qualifiers and the Asian Qualifiers (i.e. Round 3 and 4).
Thereafter, the FIFA International Match Calendar window in September 2025 will be reserved for international friendlies and the 2026 AFC U-23 Cup qualifiers with the Asian qualifiers being played in the two FIFA windows of October and November 2025 respectively.
In addition, after the decision of the AFC Conference to award the hosting rights of the 2027 AFC Asian Cup to Saudi Arabia in February 2023, the committee indicated that Saudi Arabia will host the 2026 AFC U-23 Championship, accordingly. With the earlier decision that the non-Olympic tournaments of the AFC U-23 Championships (previously known as the AFC U-23 Championship) would be hosted by the same member association hosting the next AFC Asian Cup.
Finally, in view of the strategic reforms for Asian club competitions, the committee also approved the calendar for the 2024/25 season shown below and tasked the management with adjusting the calendar as necessary.
All decisions must be ratified by the AFC Executive Committee to become effective.
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