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China amongst candidates for 2023 Asian Cup hosting rights

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has announced that China, Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea have all expressed an interest in hosting the 2023 edition of its showpiece Asian Cup national team tournament.

In a statement, the regional governing body’s Competitions Committee confirmed that the four nations met the March 31 deadline and will now have to provide government guarantees and legal opinion, as well as enter into a bidding agreement, to proceed to the next stage of the process.

Indonesia co-hosted the 2007 Asian Cup with Malaysia and Vietnam, while China staged the competition in 2004. South Korea played host to only the second edition of the tournament in 1960, four years after the inaugural Asian Cup took place in Hong Kong.

Last year’s Asian Cup was staged in Australia, with the next edition of the event due to take place in the United Arab Emirates in 2019. The UAE held off competition from Iran to land hosting rights to the tournament, which will feature 24 teams for the first time, expanding from the traditional 16. Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai and Sharjah have been confirmed as the host cities.

Meanwhile, the AFC also announced its Competitions Committee has voted to move West Asian matches in club competitions the Champions League and AFC Cup to Mondays and Tuesdays in an effort to increase both attendances and television interest.

The national governing bodies of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE had issued a proposal for the AFC to adopt the new structure, stating that playing matches on Tuesdays and Wednesdays harmed their domestic leagues. The structure comes into effect from next year, with East Asian teams continuing to play matches on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

In addition, the AFC agreed to reintroduce a competition for its lowest-ranked national teams after scrapping the existing Challenge Cup tournament in 2014.

Although details of the new event are yet to be confirmed, the AFC said Nepal, Brunei, Macau, Mongolia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and two other teams that are yet to be determined will compete in a 14-day tournament at neutral venues. Featured teams will take part in at least three matches and benefit from various coaching, refereeing and technical courses.