The 2021 AFC Cup Group Stage will see 39 clubs competing – an increase of three from 2019 – with a newly-introduced Group for the Central Zone.
With the 2020 edition cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lebanon’s Al Ahed FC, the 2019 champions, will kick off the defence of their title in Group A of the West Zone with Bahrain’s Al Hidd, Syria’s Al Wahda and Al Nasr of Oman for company.
Group B comprises Jordan’s Al Salt, Palestine’s Balata Center, Lebanon’s Al Ansar and Bahrain’s Muharraq while Group C has Syrian champions Tishreen, Al Seeb of Oman, Jordan’s Al Faisaly and a winner from the play-offs.
Group D, comprising South Zone teams, has ATK Mohun Bagan of India, Bangladesh’s Bashundhara Kings, Maziya S&RC of the Maldives and a play-off winner.
The Central Zone has been expanded to two groups with Tajikistan’s Ravshan, FC Dordoi of Kyrgyz Republic and Ahal FC of Turkmenistan in Group E while FC AGMK or FC Nasaf from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan’s Altyn Aysr, FC Khujand of Tajikistan and Kyrgyz Republic’s FC Alay make up Group F.
Hanoi FC of Vietnam, Indonesia’s Bali United, Boeung Ket of Cambodia and a play-off winner make up Group G of the ASEAN Zone.
Group H has Malaysia’s Kedah Darul Aman, Lion City Sailors of Singapore, Vietnam’s Saigon FC and a play-off winner, while Group I comprises Kaya FC-Iloilo of the Philippines, Myanmar’s Shan United or Ayeyawady United, Terengganu FC of Malaysia and Geylang International FC of Singapore.
Group J, comprising East Zone teams, has Eastern Long Lions of Hong Kong, Tainan City of Chinese Taipei, Mongolia’s Athletic 220 and Hong Kong’s Lee Man.
The 2021 Cup is scheduled to kick off with the preliminary round on April 6 with the group stage matches to be played in centralised venues beginning May 14.