AFC Competitions Committee approves key decisions on reformatted competitions
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Competitions Committee approved today at their first meeting for the 2023 to 2027 term several key decisions related to national teams’ football as well as the club competitions in view of the strategic reforms which will be implemented from the 2024/25 season.
Led by Chairperson Dr. Tran Quoc Tuan, the Committee, which met in Bangkok, Thailand on the eve of the AFC U17 Asian Cup™ Thailand 2023 Final between Korea Republic and Japan, deliberated on the participation of the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association (NMIFA) in the upcoming qualifying campaign of the FIFA World Cup 2026 and the AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™.
It was noted that the NMIFA, which is an ordinary member of the AFC and has yet to receive FIFA ordinary membership, was eligible to participate in the qualifiers of the AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ but not the FIFA World Cup 2026.
Therefore, it was agreed that the NMIFA may participate in the AFC Asian Cup™ by entering the Qualifiers Playoff Stage, where they will join the losing teams from the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1 (PJQR1) to contest for a place in the AFC Asian Cup™ 2027 Qualifiers Final Round.
Members of the Committee also agreed to revise the format of the Asian Playoff following the FIFA Council’s decision on March 14, 2023, to split the September/October 2025 four-matchday International Match Calendar into two windows with two matchdays each.
The Asian Playoff, which consists of the third and fourth placed (six teams in total) teams of each group from the AFC Asian Qualifiers – divided into two groups of three teams each, will be competed in a single round robin format in centralised venue(s).
The two first placed teams from the Asian Playoff groups will advance to the FIFA World Cup 2026, while the second-placed teams from both groups will now compete in a home and away playoff to determine the side that will represent the AFC in the Intercontinental Playoff.
In addition, in consideration of the latest information from FIFA on the FIFA World Cup 2026 Intercontinental Playoff window, the Committee agreed to adjust the calendar of the FIFA World Cup 2026 Asian Qualifiers and the Asian Playoff (i.e., Round 3 & 4).
Subsequently, the FIFA International Match Calendar window in September 2025 will be reserved for international friendlies and the AFC U23 Asian Cup™ 2026 Qualifiers with the Asian Playoff to be played in the October and November 2025 FIFA windows respectively.
Additionally, following the decision of the AFC Congress to award the hosting rights of the AFC Asian Cup™ 2027 to Saudi Arabia in February 2023, the Committee noted that the AFC U23 Asian Cup™ 2026 will be hosted by Saudi Arabia as well, in accordance with the previous decision that the non-Olympic editions of the AFC U23 Asian Cups (formerly known as the AFC U23 Championships) will be hosted by the same host Member Association of the next AFC Asian Cup™.
Finally, in view of the strategic reforms to the AFC Club Competitions, the Committee also approved the calendar for the 2024/25 season tabled below and mandated the Administration to adjust the calendar where necessary.
All the decisions will need to be ratified by the AFC Executive Committee to take effect.