The ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) have confirmed that the 2020 edition of the AFF Cup, postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, will be shifted to April of 2021, retaining the same tournament format as the 2018 edition. The newest edition of the AFF Cup is scheduled to start on April 11th, with the final being played on May 8th.
The AFF announced on their website that there will be no changes to the format of the delayed tournament, following the same formula as the 2018 edition of the AFF Cup – nations qualified to the tournament will play home-and-away in a series of group stage games spread across two groups, before the top two teams from each group qualify to the semifinal. This meant that teams will travel all around Southeast Asia for games – provided that regulations in regards of COVID-19 would allow these travel plans to come into fruition.
“The AFF Suzuki Cup Task Force Committee has determined that the above dates (April 11th to May 8th) work best to accommodate the domestic football schedules, and will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure the safety and well-being of all players, coaches, partners, fans and the public,” said the statement from the AFF, as seen on the organization’s website.
AFF president Khiev Sameth said that he’s “cautiously optimistic” that the delayed tournament, which was normally scheduled for November until December of this year, will be played in its entirety all the way to the final with the new schedule.
“While we are well aware that the fight against the global pandemic is not over, we are cautiously optimistic for the AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 to take place in its full format as we hope to deliver the best of ASEAN in the tournament next year,” said Sameth, a Cambodian national, as quoted from the Jakarta Globe, “The AFF also hopes that the announcement of the 2021 tournament dates will provide some clarity in planning for our commercial partners, including sponsors and media broadcasters, at a time of uncertainty.”
The AFF Cup involves 11 out of the 12 member associations of the AFF, with Australia being the sole member association who did not participate in the biennial regional tournament. Vietnam were the defending champions of the AFF Cup, winning their second regional title in 2018 after beating Malaysia 3-2 on aggregate.