Challenge Cup host decided; changes forthcoming

The Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Competitions Committee met in Kuala Lumpur last week to discuss a number of matters relating to the continent’s tournaments. After a murky bid process that saw India and Tajikistan fail to make the shortlist for unspecified reasons the committee was left to choose between the Philippines and the Maldives. The decision was made to go with the Maldives not because of better infrastructure or a track record of success but because the powers that be felt guilty for awarding the 2012 edition to Nepal.

As a result, the Maldives will not take part in qualifying this March having secured an automatic berth as the tournament’s hosts. Also not participating are Cambodia who have cited financial difficulty and holders Korea DPR who have already secured a spot at the 2015 Asian Cup by winning the 2012 edition.

Going forward, the AFC has decided not to allow 2010 FIFA World Cup finalist Korea DPR to participate in future editions of the Challenge Cup. The Competitions Committee also has decided that the winners of the 2016 and 2018 Challenge Cups will no longer get an automatic berth at the Asian Cup. Instead, the two Challenge Cup champions will face the two best third place teams from the 2019 Asian Cup qualifying tournament in a two-legged playoff.

Unfortunately, the AFC failed to do away with automatic 2019 Asian Cup berths for the top three teams at the 2015 Asian Cup. It remains to be seen whether or not 2019 Asian Cup qualifying will be open to all 46 member associations or only an arbitrary group of 21 teams as was the case for the 2011 and 2015 editions.

In its press release the AFC failed to mention when the draw for the 2014 Challenge Cup qualifying round would be held but thanks to our friends over at the Tajikistan Football Federation we can confirm that it will be held on December 11th.

The AFC is expected to seed the teams according to their performance in the 2012 edition. If that is indeed the case (or if the AFC uses the FIFA ranking) Palestine would be ranked third behind Turkmenistan and the Philippines.  

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