The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL), which has been rebranded from the Spring Festival to the Autumn Festival, will kick off on September 19 with the main group stage.
A total of 40 teams will compete in 10 groups, with West Asian clubs in Groups A through E and East Asian clubs in Groups F through J, all of which are affiliated with the K League.온라인바카라
The teams will play a total of six group matches per team, home and away, until December 13, with the top three teams from the top two groups and eight teams from West Asia and East Asia advancing to the round of 16.
The round of 16 will be played over the course of the year, starting in February 2024, with all matches being played home and away until the final. The finals will be held on May 11 and the second leg on May 18.
Four teams from the K League will compete, including last season’s K League champions Ulsan Hyundai and FA Cup winners Jeonbuk Hyundai, as well as Pohang Steelers and Incheon United.
The other three teams have all won ACL titles, with Incheon making its first appearance in the ACL in 20 years since its founding in 2003. The most recent K League team to win the title was Ulsan Hyundai in 2020.
As this is the first season under the new system, K League teams based in the Spring Festival League have more to worry about than ever before, including squad management.
The ACL group stage is one of the most crucial periods for the K League, with the top and bottom splits being decided and championships and relegations being decided.
At the ACL pre-match press conference on the 18th, Ulsan head coach Hong Myung-bo expressed his determination to win and said, “The ACL is meaningful because it is the first game to start the season next year. It is important to calculate these aspects well and pass the group stage well.”
Ulsan was placed in Group I alongside Kawasaki Frontale (Japan), Johor Darul Taqzim (Malaysia), and Pathum United (Thailand). The result against Kawasaki is a watershed moment that will decide the group’s top spot.
Pohang is in Group J with Wuhan Three Towns (China), Hanoi (Vietnam), and Urawa Reds (Japan). It’s a tricky group with both Chinese and Japanese teams.
Jeonbuk received a relatively easy grouping. They were placed in Group F with Bangkok United (Thailand), Kitsch (Hong Kong), and Ryan City (Singapore), avoiding all of the major big league teams from Japan, China, and Australia.
Incheon, making its first appearance in the ACL, was placed in Group G with Yokohama Mariners (Japan), Shandong Taishan (China), and Caya Iloilo (Philippines). The pressure is on Yokohama and Shandong, led by head coach Choi Kang-hee.
Ulsan will open the tournament on Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. against Pathum United at Ulsan Munsuguri Stadium, while Incheon will kick off against Yokohama at Nissan Stadium in Japan at the same time.
On the 20th, Jeonbuk will host Kitchee at Jeonju World Cup Stadium at 7pm and Pohang will take on Hanoi at Vietnam’s Maidin Stadium at 9pm.
Meanwhile, this year’s ACL will feature a number of world-class superstars, including Cristiano Ronaldo (Al Nasr), Karim Benzema (Al Ittihad), and Neymar (Al Hilal).
Some Saudi clubs, backed by sovereign wealth funds, have recruited a number of stars from Europe, which has led to a significant increase in the number of foreigners playing in the ACL.
Al Nasr has Ronaldo, Sadio Mane, Otavio, and Marcelo Brozovic, while Al Ittihad has Benzema, N’Golo Kante, and Fabinho. Al Hilal’s roster looks like a UEFA Champions League (UCL) lineup with Neymar, Alexander Mitrovic, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Leo Varane.
However, West and East Asia will play separate tournaments until the quarterfinals, where they will meet in the final to crown a unified East-West Asian champion. If a League of Legends team makes it to the final, we could be seeing a lot of stars in our own backyard next May.