AFC Champions League Stats: A Comprehensive Overview

The AFC Champions League (ACL) is the premier club football competition in Asia, organized by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). Since its inception in 2002, the ACL has grown in prestige and popularity, attracting the best teams from across the continent. This article delves into the history, format, and key statistics of the AFC Champions League, highlighting its significance in Asian football AFC Champions League Stats.

History and Evolution

Early Beginnings

The AFC Champions League replaced the Asian Club Championship, which had been running since 1967. The new format aimed to enhance the competitiveness and commercial appeal of Asian club football. The inaugural ACL season took place in 2002–2003, with Al-Ain from the United Arab Emirates emerging as the first champions.

Development and expansion

Over the years, the competition has expanded both in terms of the number of participating teams and its geographical reach. Initially, the tournament featured 16 teams, but by the 2023–2024 season, this number had grown to 40, reflecting the rising standards of club football across Asia.

Tournament Format

Group Stage

The ACL starts with a group stage, featuring 40 teams divided into 10 groups of four. Teams play home and away matches within their groups, and the top two from each group advance to the knockout stage. This format ensures a high level of competition and excitement as teams from different countries and regions face off against each other.

Knockout Stage

The knockout stage comprises the Round of 16, Quarterfinals, Semifinals, and Final. Except for the final, each round consists of two legs, home and away. The final is a single match, with the venue alternating between East and West Asia each year AFC Champions League Stats.

Key statistics and records

The most successful clubs

Several clubs have dominated the AFC Champions League over the years. Pohang Steelers from South Korea hold the record for the most titles, having won the competition three times (2009, 1997, 1996). Other notable multiple winners include Al-Hilal from Saudi Arabia and Ulsan Hyundai from South Korea.

Top Scorers

Scoring goals is the essence of football, and the ACL has seen some prolific goal-scorers. Lee Dong-gook of South Korea holds the record for the most goals in the competition’s history, with 37. Brazilian striker Muriqui, who played for Guangzhou Evergrande, is also among the top scorers with 28 goals.

Attendance and viewership

The ACL has grown in popularity, with increasing attendance at matches and higher television viewership. The 2019 final between Al-Hilal and Urawa Red Diamonds attracted over 50,000 spectators at the King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh. Additionally, millions of viewers tuned in to watch the match live on television and online platforms.

Impact on Asian Football

Development of Clubs

The ACL has played a crucial role in the development of club football in Asia. By providing a competitive platform, it has encouraged clubs to invest in better facilities, youth development programs, and high-quality players. This, in turn, has raised the overall standard of football across the continent.

International Recognition

Success in the ACL has brought international recognition to Asian clubs and players. Teams that perform well in the competition often participate in the FIFA Club World Cup, where they face champions from other continents. This exposure has helped Asian clubs gain a foothold on the global stage.

Memorable Moments

Al-Sadd’s 2011 triumph

One of the most memorable moments in ACL history was Al-Sadd’s victory in 2011. The Qatari club won their first title in dramatic fashion, defeating Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in a penalty shootout in the final. This victory was significant as it marked a turning point for Qatari football, showcasing their ability to compete at the highest level in Asia.

Urawa Red Diamonds’ comeback in 2017

In 2017, the Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan staged a remarkable comeback to win their second ACL title. After a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the final against Al-Hilal, Urawa secured a 1-0 victory at home, thanks to a late goal by Rafael Silva. Thousands of passionate fans celebrated this triumph at Saitama Stadium.

Future Prospects

Increasing Competitiveness

The future of the AFC Champions League looks promising, with increasing competitiveness among clubs from different regions. The introduction of the expanded format and new regulations aims to level the playing field, providing more opportunities for clubs to participate and succeed.

The focus is on youth development.

Youth development remains a key focus for many ACL clubs. By investing in academies and nurturing young talent, clubs aim to build strong teams capable of competing at both domestic and continental levels. We expect this emphasis on youth development to yield positive results in the coming years.


The AFC Champions League has become a cornerstone of Asian football, providing a platform for the best clubs to showcase their talent and compete for glory. With its rich history, exciting format, and growing popularity, the ACL continues to inspire football fans across the continent. As the competition evolves, it promises to deliver more memorable moments and contribute significantly to the development of football in Asia AFC Champions League Stats.

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