Saudi Arabia to host new AFC Champions League Elite finals for initial two years from 2025

Competition, which begins in September next year, replaces the existing Asian Champions League with the eventual winners netting $12m - up from $4m this year

Saudi Arabia has been chosen to host the revamped AFC Champions League Elite finals by the Asian Football Confederation. AP
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Saudi Arabia has been confirmed as host of the first two editions of the new AFC Champions League Elite finals, a revamp of continent’s premier club competition that the Asian Football Confederation labelled on Friday the “most strategic and game-changing reforms ever to be introduced in the history of the Asian club game”.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said the Saudi Arabian Football Federation won the bid to stage the new tournament ahead of the Iraq Football Association "after evaluating the infrastructure and accommodation requirements”.

The revised competition, which replaces the existing Asian Champions League, will begin in September next year with the continent’s top 24 clubs divided into two leagues of 12 across the East and West regions.

Teams will compete home and away for a spot in the last 16, with the eight winners advancing to a centralised final phase in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom will stage the quarter-finals, semis and final, in single-leg format.

The AFC said the eventual winners will be awarded “the biggest-ever purse prize” of $12 million – up significantly from the $4m given to the winner of this year’s Asian Champions League. The losing finalist of the Elite event will receive $6m. The first edition of the AFC Champions League Elite – Final Stage is scheduled to take place from April 25 to May 4, 2025.

In Friday’s statement to announce the hosting rights, the AFC said: “The [Saudi Arabian Football Federation] was selected as the eventual host after evaluating the infrastructure and accommodation requirements, as well as all other key operational aspects needed to stage a tournament befitting the prestige and stature of the continent’s newly revamped premier club competition."

It added that the kingdom has also been provisionally awarded hosting rights for a further three years subject to an AFC review of the initial seasons.

The new event is the latest football tournament to be staged in Saudi, with the Fifa Club World Cup taking place in the kingdom this month for the first time. Featuring Manchester City and hosts Al Ittihad, it runs in Jeddah from December 12-22.

On October 31, Saudi was confirmed as the only country to submit a bid to host the 2034 World Cup, while it will stage the 2027 Asian Cup and is in the running to hold also the Women’s Asian Cup in 2026.

Updated: December 01, 2023, 9:24 AM