A record number of entries have been received by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for the AFC U-16 Championship 2018 and AFC U-19 Championship 2018 qualifiers, taking place later this year from September 16-24 and October 31-November 8 respectively.
For the first time in history, all 46 Member Associations have submitted their entries to participate in the AFC U-16 Championship 2018 qualifiers. The only exception is Kuwait who are still serving a FIFA suspension.
Similarly, a record-breaking 44 teams have expressed their intention to participate in the qualifiers for the AFC U-19 Championship 2018, one of the continent’s oldest youth football competitions.
AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said: “The overwhelming response received for both the AFC U-16 and U-19 Championships is a strong sign of the growth of the game in Asia. This will not only create a more competitive environment for all our teams but once again reiterates the unity and solidarity of our Member Associations to take Asian football to even greater heights.
“As envisaged in the AFC’s Vision and Mission – under the banner of One Asia, One Goal – we have signalled our aspirations to ensure our teams and players compete on the world’s biggest stage.
“Participation in the age-group competitions plays an essential part of football development and I would like to thank all our Member Associations for their unwavering commitment in seeding the foundations for building strong national teams for the future.”
As part of efforts to enhance the quality of this year’s qualifiers, the AFC has reduced the number of teams in each qualifying group to no more than five, with most groups comprising of just four teams each. This is a notable improvement from the previous editions where groups consisted of a maximum of six teams.
Additionally, the AFC is also working closely with host Member Associations to elevate the standard of the training and stadium facilities in each region by providing subsidies for the organisation of the qualifiers.
The draws for the AFC U-16 Championship 2018 Qualifiers and AFC U-19 Championship 2018 Qualifiers will take place on Friday, 21 April 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.