It wasn’t too long ago that Western Sydney Wanderers knocked off Al Hilal for the 2014 AFC Champions League title, but the draw for next year’s edition was held last night. What fate did the four Korean teams get?
Jeonbuk got one of Korea’s three group stage entry positions due to winning the K League Classic this year. They were placed in Group E. Group E also contains Chinese side Shandong Luneng (Chinese FA Cup winner) and Vietnamese outfit Becamex Binh Du’o’ng (V. League 1 champions). The fourth spot in the group is currently up in the air and will be decided after the qualification playoffs. The possible teams are: Kashima Antlers (J1 League 3rd place), Kashiwa Reysol (J1 League 4th place), Chonburi (Thai Premier League runners-up), and Kitchee (Hong Kong 1st Division champions). Chonburi and Kitchee will play in the 2nd preliminary round, with the winner to face the Japan 4 team. The Japan 4 team normally goes to the J1 League 3rd place team (Kashima), but if Gamba Osaka wins the Emperor’s Cup (likely) then it goes to the 4th place team (Kashiwa Reysol).
Becamex Binh Du’o’ng
E4 (likely Kashiwa Reysol)
February 24 – vs E4
March 3 – at Shandong
March 17 – vs Becamex
April 8 – at Becamex
April 22 – at E4
May 6 – vs Shandong
Seongnam also got one of Korea’s three automatic group stage entry positions due to winning the Korean FA Cup. Seongnam was placed in Group F with Japanese champions Gamba Osaka and Thai champions Buriram United. The final place in this group is subject to the results from the preliminary rounds. Central Coast Mariners (A-League 3rd place, PR3), Guangzhou R&F (Chinese Super League 3rd place, PR2), Yadanarbon (Myanmar champions PR1), or Warriors (Singapore champions, PR1) could all take that final spot.
F4 (likely Central Coast Mariners or Guangzhou R&F)
February 24 – at Buriram
March 3 – vs Gamba
March 18 – at F4
April 7 – vs F4
April 22 – vs Buriram
May 6 – at Gamba
Suwon took Korea’s final group stage position since they finished as K League Classic runners-up. They were placed in Group G. Group G currently only contains A-League club Brisbane Roar (regular and Grand Final winner) with the other two places not completely decided. One spot will go to Japan 2. That is normally the winner of the Emperor’s Cup. The final of the Emperor’s Cup is between Gamba Osaka and Montedio Yamagata (J2 side). Should Montedio Yamagata win, they’ll go into Group G. If Gamba Osaka wins, then the Japan 2 spot will go to the J1 League runners-up, Urawa Red Diamonds. The fourth spot in Group G is subject to the preliminary rounds. Beijing Guoan (Chinese Super League runners-up, PR3), Bangkok Glass (Thai FA Cup winners, PR2), Johor Darul Ta’zim (Malaysia Super League champions, PR1), and Bengaluru (I-League champions, PR1) could all take that spot. In all likelihood though, it will be Beijing Guoan.
Japan 2 (likely Urawa Red Diamonds)
G4 (likely Beijing Guoan)
February 25 – vs Japan 2
March 4 – at G4
March 17 – at Brisbane
April 8 – vs Brisbane
April 21 – at Japan 2
May 5 – vs G4
Seoul finished third in the K League Classic and will enter the competition in the 3rd preliminary round in the E3.1 spot. They will play the winner of the E2.1 preliminary match which will be between Ha Noi T&T (V. League 1 runners-up) and Persib Bandung (Indonesia Super League champions). Seoul should win that qualifier, and if they do, they will be placed in Group H. Group H currently contains Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande and defending AFC Champions League winner Western Sydney Wanderers. The other place in Group G will go to the Japan 3 team. Japan 3 is either the J1 League runners-up or J1 League 3rd place team. Should Gamba Osaka win the Emperor’s Cup (again likely) then the 3rd place team (Kashima Antlers) will enter Group H.
Western Sydney Wanderers
Japan 3 (likely Kashima Antlers)
FC Seoul* (must qualify)
February 25 – at Guangzhou Evergrande
March 4 – vs Japan 3
March 17 – vs Western Sydney
April 8 – at Western Sydney
April 21 – vs Guangzhou Evergrande
May 5 – at Japan 3
- Assuming he sticks with them for his contract, we would have a “Korean derby” over in Group B as Park Chu-young‘s Al-Shabab are in the same group as Lee Myeong-joo‘s Al-Ain.
- That group (B) could actually have three Korean players in it, should Lee Keun-ho and El Jaish qualify. They will start in the 2nd preliminary round.
- Lee Jung-soo and Al Sadd will also start in the 2nd preliminary round.
- Kwak Tae-hwi and Al-Hilal are in Group C which is where Lee Jung-soo and Al Sadd would be placed if they make it to the group stage.
- Nam Tae-hee and Lekhwiya are in Group A.
- Kim Young-gwon and Guanzhou Evergrande are in Group H (could face FC Seoul).
- Oh Jae-suk and Gamba Osaka are in Group F and will face Seongnam.
- Ha Dae-sung and Beijing Guoan need to qualify (preliminary round 3) and would end up in Group G with Suwon.
- Park Jong-woo and Jang Hyun-soo and Guangzhou R&F will need to qualify (preliminary round 2) and would end up in Group F with Seongnam.
- Kim Chang-soo and Kashiwa Reysol need some help from Gamba (should get it). If they make it, they’ll end up in Group E with Jeonbuk.
There’s still a few months until the competition proper kicks off, but I’m already excited! I just wish one f***ing TV channel would REGULARLY broadcast the matches here! So, which group intrigues you? Any match ups you’re looking forward to in particular?