|Region Asia (AFC)|
Most successful club(s) Al-Kuwait (3 titles)
|Number of teams 36|
|Founded 2004; 13 years ago (2004)|
Current champions Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya (1st title)
The AFC Cup is an annual International association football competition between domestic clubs run by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). Qualification to the competition is available to clubs from AFC-affiliated countries that fall into the AFC's 'developing nations' category as laid out in their 'Vision Asia' document. Countries which are 'emerging' nations are eligible to participate in the AFC Cup qualifying play-off, where as countries which are 'mature' nations are entered into the AFC Champions League.
The 'developing nations' are the fourteen 'next-best' countries that lie outside the top-14 countries in the AFC region which send their clubs to the more prestigious AFC Champions League. Before the reform in competition format that took place in 2009, the two competitions were not interlinked as the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League are in Europe, and AFC Champions League losers did not compete in the Cup. Following the reform in 2009, finalists of the AFC Cup meeting AFC's criteria and certain other eligible teams are allowed to compete in the qualifying round of AFC Champions League with the losers demoted to play in the AFC Cup.
Al-Kuwait are the most successful club in the competition's history, having won three titles. Clubs from Kuwait have won four titles, making them the most successful nation in the competition. Ever since the inauguration of the competition in 2004, the finalists of each edition have been dominated by clubs from West Asia until 2015 when the Malaysian team Johor Darul Ta'zim from East Asia became one of the finalists. Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya are the current champions after defeating Bengaluru FC in the final to win the 2016 AFC Cup.
The AFC Cup began in 2004 as a second tier competition to relate back to the AFC Champions League as 14 countries that had developing status competed in the first competition with 18 teams being nominated. Group A, B, C had West and Central Asian teams while the other two groups had east and South East Asia. The winners and three runner ups would then head to the knock-out stage where it was a random draw in who was going to play. Al-Jaish took the first AFC Cup after they defeated fellow Syrian opponents Al-Wahda on away goals.
In 2005, 18 teams competed from nine nations with the nations still being allowed to choose from one or two teams entering. After Syrian teams left the AFC Cup to try at the Champions League for four years, Al-Faisaly defeated Al-Nejmeh in the final. With it Jordan teams would win the next two AFC Cup's with Bahrain joining the league while Bangladesh would be relegated to the AFC President's Cup which is where they would be until 2015 where they would attempt to qualify.
Al-Muharraq would break the trend in 2008 as they competed in the last two-legged final before it headed back into a one-leg system which still runs to this day.
AFC’s second-tier club competition will also see changes in terms of teams and format for the 2017 edition.
- A total of 36 teams participate in the group stage (12 from West Asia and ASEAN, and 4 from East Asia, Central Asia and South Asia).
- The final will be played as a one-off match.
Teams from only 27 AFC countries have reached the group stage of the AFC Cup. The allocation of those teams by member country is listed below; asterisks represent occasions where at least one team was eliminated in qualification for the group stage. 32 AFC countries have had teams participate in qualification, and countries that have never had teams reach the group stage are not shown.