The AFC Champions League spans most of the year with qualifying in March and then the season running from April 7, 2022 through February 26, 2023. Fans can watch on a number of channels depending on their location and the match.
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The AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Champions League is Asia’s version of the UEFA Champions League in that it involves the continent’s top club teams, which play over several months leading to a marquee final. This competition has existed in one manner or another since 1967 and under its current moniker since 2002.
Those looking to watch these matches in the US will find it via CBS Sports. Some matches will show on CBS and CBS Sports Network (CBSSN). But most should be available to stream directly from Paramount+.
AFC Champions League
The first edition of the AFC Champions League, which was then named the Asian Champion Club Tournament, took place from May 6 through Dec 19, 1967. It involved six clubs playing a series of two-leg ties leading up to a single-match final.
Actually, Israel’s Hapoel Tel Aviv ended up receiving byes through the three rounds prior to that point and only played the final. It defeated Selangor FA (Malaysia), 2-1, there.
However, the competition was only contested three more times (1969, 1970, and 1971) before it experienced a significant hiatus, which ended in 1985. That was the start of its Asian Cup Championship era, and this event in its different iterations has taken place on a regular basis since.
In 2002, it became the AFC Champions League. The main difference with the latter change was the addition of numerous cup winners to the event.
Only two clubs have lifted this competition’s trophy on more than two occasions. Al-Hilal (Saudi Arabia) has done so four times (1991, 2000, 2019, and 2021) while Pohang Steelers (South Korea) has been the champions of Asia on three occasions (1997, 1998, and 2009). Eleven teams have done so twice, and a further 11 have one championship to their credit. Nineteen have played in the final but not won it.
Unlike most other Champions Leagues around the world, Asia’s version leaves out several countries, who instead take part in the AFC Cup, which, in some ways, is similar to the UEFA Europa League in Europe.
A total of 24 countries are eligible to send teams to the AFC Champions League. The exact teams chosen is dependent on a formula that is similar to the UEFA coefficient. To put that figure into perspective, consider that there are 47 AFC countries.
For the 2022 competition, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iran, United Arab Emirates, China, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand were all initially awarded four spots apiece. In addition, Iraq and Australia initially received three spots apiece. And Uzbekistan and the Philippines were initially awarded two places apiece.
For the 2022 competition, preliminary and playoff rounds precede the group stage. Games in both rounds were played as single matches. Then, a total of 40 teams participated in the group stage, which involved 10 groups of four clubs apiece.
Each side played the other three teams home and away for a total of six matches. The 10 first-place teams and six of the second-place sides advanced to the knockout phase, which consists of two-leg ties from the Round of 16 to the final.
For the entire Champions League, the competition is divided into an East Region and a West Region, resulting in completely separate paths to the final. In other words, the only point of the event in which a club from Saudi Arabia would meet one from Japan would be in the final.
However, note that many knockout phase matches for that edition have been pushed to 2023, and the final has been scheduled for Feb 19 and 26 of that year. That is partially to set up a new calendar for the event, starting with the 2023-24 competition. However, the format appears to have little or no changes.
FIFA Club World Cup
In the past, the AFC Champions League winner would advance to the FIFA Club World Cup. Another member might as well; this occurs if an AFC country is hosting the Club World Cup. In that instance, that nation’s top league’s champion would participate as well.
However, the former every-year-format of the Club World Cup was set to expire at the end of the 2021 competition, which was contested in February 2022. The plan for the future is an expansive edition occurring every four years and involving three AFC clubs. However, when that will happen is in doubt, and the every-year format may continue in 2022 and beyond.
2022-2023 AFC Champions League Schedule
- Round of 16
- Thu Aug 18 TBD: TBD vs Urawa Reds
- Thu Aug 18 TBD: Daegu vs TBD
- Thu Aug 18 TBD: Vissel Kobe vs Yokohama FM
- Thu Aug 18 TBD: BG Pathum United vs Kitchee
- Fri Feb 3 TBD: Al-Duhail vs Al Rayyan
- Fri Feb 3 TBD: Al-Hilal vs Shabab Al-Ahli
- Fri Feb 3 TBD: Al-Faisaly vs Foolad
- Fri Feb 3 TBD: Al-Shabab vs Nasaf
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AFC Champions League Channels
This competition can be viewed on a variety of channels around the world. Understandably, the availability of its matches is much higher in Asia and, in particular, the countries of the clubs participating in the matches.
In the US, CBS Sports has the rights to AFC Champions League matches. But it is not clear that they ever appear on CBS or CBSSN.
However, extensive coverage of the competition is available online through CBS’s streaming service Paramount+ for $4.99/mo. It appears that all matches from the group stage through the final are streamed through that platform.
You can watch the AFC Champions League on most devices including Amazon Fire TV, Android mobile, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iPhone/iPad, LG TVs, PlayStation 4, Roku, Samsung TVs, and Xbox. See our Paramount+ review for details.
The AFC Champions League does not appear to be broadcast or streamed in Canada, Ireland, or United Kingdom. But Paramount+ is available in all those countries.
Meanwhile, regular coverage is available in AFC member country Australia through that nation’s own version of Paramount+ ($8.99 AUD/mo).
Select matches are shown in New Zealand on beIN Sports Connect and Sky Sport. There have been discussions about Paramount+ coming to the country but it has yet to happen.
Those in the US looking to catch all of the AFC Champions League action can enjoy extensive coverage of the competition thanks to a Paramount+ subscription for $4.99/mo.
It airs on live TV in many other countries. Also check to see if Paramount+ is available where you live since it has been added to a number of countries.
Which teams qualified for the AFC Champions League knockout phase this year?
In the East Region, these clubs qualified for the 2022 AFC Champions League round of 16: Daegu FC (South Korea), Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (South Korea), BG Pathum United (Thailand), Kitchee (Hong Kong), Johor Darul Ta’zim (Malaysia), Urawa Red Diamonds (Japan), Vissel Kobe (Japan), and Yokohama F. Marinos (Japan).
Meanwhile, the West Region sides to reach that stage of the competition included Al-Hilal (Saudi Arabia), Shabab Al-Ahli (United Arab Emirates), Al-Shabab (Saudi Arabia), Nasaf Qarshi (Uzbekistan), Al-Duhail (Qatar), Al-Rayyan (Qatar), Al-Faisaly (Saudi Arabia), and Foolad (Iran).
Who is the best team in the AFC Champions League?
The best team in the 2021 edition of the AFC Champions League was Al-Hilal, a club from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. After finishing second in its group, it defeated Esteghlal (Iran), Persepolis (Iran), Al-Nassr (Saudi Arabia), and Pohang Steelers (South Korea) in the knockout phase to claim its fourth title.
In fact, Al-Hilal is also the best team all-time as that win in 2021 was the side’s fourth title. No other Asian club has won this competition that many times. Fellow finalist Pohang Steelers is second on that list with three trophies.
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