The allocation of spots in next season’s overhauled Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL) has been somewhat outlined. The controversial ACL Elite (ACLE) group stage will feature the winners of the K League and FA Cup. However, for now, the allocation of spots for the 2024-25 season has been finalized, with the next season’s allocation still to be determined.
The Korea Football Association (KFA) announced on Tuesday that this season’s K League champions and FA Cup winners will go directly to the ACL next season, while the second-place K League team will compete in the ACL Playoffs (PO) and the third-place K League team will compete in the ACL2. The ACL competition will be divided into the ACLE and ACL2 from next season. Compared to the UEFA club competition, the ACL is the equivalent of the Champions League and the ACL2 is the equivalent of the Europa League.
It is unclear which teams will qualify for the ACL starting in the 2025-26 season. This is still a matter of discussion between the KFA and the professional soccer leagues. The KFA organizes the FA Cup and the K League organizes the K League, both of which want to qualify for the ACLE for their respective competitions. For now, the allocation for this season has been agreed upon, which is why it is necessary to continue discussions.
The clubs are also keen to see what the KFA and the federation come up with. Playing in the ACLE means playing in the AFC’s top club competition, and there is a huge prize pool at stake. Starting next season, the prize money for the ACL will increase from $4 million (5.3 billion won) to $12 million (15.9 billion won). Considering that the K League title is worth 500 million won and the FA Cup is worth 300 million won, the motivation for participating teams is even greater.
The question is whether the winner of the KFA-organized FA Cup will head to the ACLE or ACL2. The KFA’s position is that the FA Cup winner should go straight to the ACL, given the significance of the FA Cup for all teams in the country, including amateurs, and the existing ACL berths. The federation, on the other hand, argues that teams that have proven their competitiveness over the course of a long season should head to the ACLE. This debate is likely to continue to draw parallels in the future. We’ve put out the fire, but there’s a long way to go.
Even among clubs, opinions are divided. “There’s a symbolism to the FA Cup. If you’re the one team that comes out on top, professional or amateur, you deserve to be in the ACLE. It’s not about going straight to the knockout stages or going through the POs. Having a spot on the line will keep the FA Cup motivation going. It will naturally raise our profile in the competition.” 토토사이트
However, another club representative said, “The FA Cup has many variables. A team from a weaker division can still win it. Just as the status of the tournament changed when the ACL was divided, we should at least carefully analyze the competitiveness of the teams participating in the ACLE. Teams that have shown their competitiveness for the championship in the K League throughout the year deserve to head to the ACLE. The KFA is constantly being criticized for the way it operates, and it is not the time to look for authority and prestige for the FA Cup.”