India's Mathematical chances of Qualifying For The AFC Champions League

Updated: Aug 18, 2018


There is no doubt that Bengaluru FC have played a vital part in reinstating India on Asia’s footballing map. Their first continental appearance came on the 4th of February 2015, in a 2-1 loss (after extra time) against the Malaysian club Johur Darul Ta’zim (JDT) in the Preliminary Round of the AFC Champions League. Although neither BFC, nor any other Indian club, has had much success in the AFC Champions League in the recent past, BFC have come closest to tasting success in AFC club competitions, bowing out in the Round of 16, the finals and the Inter-zone finals in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 AFC CUP sporting seasons respectively.


In this piece, we will try to understand whether a club from India can ever get a direct berth into the AFC Champions League in the coming years and what the clubs from the country have to do in terms of success in the AFC Cup to get there (namely Bengaluru FC, Chennaiyin FC and Minerva Punjab and the clubs that win the ISL and I-League in the 2018-19 Indian Football season).


The 2009 AFC Champions League was the first season where some sort of a metric was used to allocate berths to participating nations and clubs. But, it was only for the 2015 season that the current version of the coefficient metric was used to allocate slots except for one key difference – club competition points from the previous four years were given 70% weightage and the ‘FIFA points’ (based on the international FIFA rankings) were given a weightage of 30% as opposed to the 90% and 10% that was used to calculate the 2017 Dec AFC club competitions rankings (90-10 old method will be used to seed berths for the 2019 and 2020 sporting seasons). Going forward, FIFA points won’t hold any weightage after 2021.


We shall now look at India’s MA (Member Association) points. These MA points are not be confused with the final relative points that are awarded to each MA after including the 10% (FIFA points); they are more representative of the ‘actual points’ that are awarded after each draw and win in the AFC tournaments.


Using the AFC Calculation principle, (Entry Manual AFC Club Competitions, Appendix 2)


On the 7th of December 2016 it was announced the India would be returning to the west conference

You can see the spike in the MA points as a result of BFC reaching the finals in 2016 and the inter-zone finals in 2017. According to the “Principles of the AFC Club Competitions Ranking System”, if an MA has more than 1 club in the Group Stage or Knock-out stage, the average of points of each club are considered for the year’s MA “true points”.

For example in the 2013 edition of the AFC cup, East Bengal secured 10 points by reaching the Quarter finals while Churchill Brothers failed to go past the group stage with only 1.33. So India’s points for 2013 dropped to 5.667! Similarly in 2015 BFC got 5 points while East Bengal brought done the average to 3.333; in 2016 BFC got 10.67 while Mohun Bagan brought down the average to 7.667. It should be noted that the only reason India’s points were as ‘high’ as 7.667 is because Mohun Bagan also reached the Round of 16.



The 2016 AFC cup was the last edition where clubs from India would be put in different groups. From 2017 onwards clubs from countries that belong to the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF), Central Asian Football Association (CAFA) and the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) sub confederations would have to play in their own respective groups, even if they have more than 1 club representative from each country, almost guaranteeing a reduction in points due to the average. All this happens while the clubs West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) are guaranteed a direct spot in the AFC Cup final!


While BFC should be grateful for Aizawl FC’s 2 – 1 win against New Radiant on 16th of May 2018, Aizawl’s abysmal performance has cost India dearly in terms of India getting an AFC Champions League Group Stage spot in addition to a qualification play-off spot we already have.


According to the “Entry Manual AFC Club Competitions 2017-2020” Article 2.3, the November 2017 AFC Club Competition Rankings (MA Rankings) would be used to allocate berths for both the 2019 and the 2020 AFC Champions League (and the AFC Cup). So, it would only be in the 2021 AFC Champions League that India will get a Group stage spot, IF we make the top 6 in the West Asian conference. Let’s take a look at where India stands in terms of MA points as of 17th May 2018.


Note: Green signifies that clubs from this MA still have games to play in 2018 and red signifies that the country does not have any game left and that they have been knocked out from their respective competitions.

Aizawl FC have bowed out of the 2018 AFC Cup with 1.33 points courtesy of a win against New Radiant and a draw against Dhaka Abahani, While BFC have 6 points courtesy of 5 wins and 1 bonus point that is awarded to a club as it moves on from the group stage to the knockout stage and every other knockout stage thereafter.


Country’s MA points for a particular season = { (the points acquired by the clubs during the group and knock-out stages, including the bonus)/2} + [sum of points acquired by both the clubs in the qualifiers]

India’s current MA points = {(6 + 1.33)/2} + 0.45 + 0.3 = 4.417

Note: The ‘0.45’ is the points BFC acquired during the qualification for the AFC Cup group stage and ‘0.3’ is the bonus points Aizawl FC got for participating in the AFC Champions League qualifying playoff stage. The Points acquired in the qualifiers are added to average of the points acquired in the Group stages and knockout stages of the clubs in question. The points from the qualifiers are added after the average is taken separately.


Now let us look at the theoretical maximum number of points BFC can get in the 2018 AFC (by winning the title) and thereby India’s MA points.


If BFC win the 2 legs of the inter-zone semifinals, the 2 legs of Inter-zone finals and the main finals they would 1.6 x 5 points in addition to the 2 bonus points, they get 10 more points than what they have as of now, which makes it 16 points.


India’s MA points for 2018 = {(16 + 1.33)/2} + 0.75 = 9.417

Let us see which position this new number would place India in the West Asia conference.


The points from the 2015 sporting season have been purposely removed as it would not have any bearing with the 2020 AFC Club Competition Rankings that would be used for the 2021 ACL. However the 2016 MA points have been included keeping in mind the slight chance that the AFC would start a 5 year ranking system like the UEFA coefficient.


Note: To reduce the number of permutations that we’d have to consider, we have NOT considered the remaining AFC Champions League fixtures of the clubs from Iran and Qatar (Marked in Red) as it their positions are pretty much solid and India or any other country currently playing in the AFC cup could not dislodge them for another half decade at least, mathematically speaking.


Clubs from UAE, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Syria (Marked in Green) have finished all of their games in the ACL and ACC, so the number shown are the final numbers that will remain the same when the sporting season ends. The points of Iraq, India and Jordan (Marked in Orange) are all conditional, the condition mentioned in the header of each table.


Most importantly, there isn’t much clarity on which rules the AFC club competition ranking system will use to seed berths to the various members of the AFC post 2020. But 2 cases have been covered. One being where the points from 2016 is used ( MA points for the previous 5 years being used to calculate the ranks) and the other being where points from 2016 aren’t considered ( MA points for the previous 4 years being used to calculate the ranks)


SCENARIO 1


If the Nov/Dec 2020 MA rankings use MA points for the previous 5 years, then the clubs representing India in 2019 and 2020 should be ahead of both Uzbekistan and Iraq by 0.866 and 1.165 points respectively by the end of the 2020 AFC sporting season and ensure that we are also ahead of Jordan and Tajikistan, we will move to the 5th position in West Asian conference and get 1 group stage and 2 preliminary/play-off slots for the 2021 sporting season


If the Nov/Dec 2020 MA rankings use MA points for the previous 4 years, then the clubs representing India in 2019 and 2020 should be are ahead of Tajikistan by 1.563 points and also ensure that we are ahead of Uzbekistan, Jordan and Tajikistan by the end of the 2020 AFC sporting season, to move to the 5th position in the West Asian conference to get 1 group stage and 2 preliminary/play-off slots for the 2021 sporting season. Otherwise, if we maintain this position for the 2019 and 2020 sporting seasons we get 1 group stage spot and 1 preliminary/play-off slot.


SCENARIO 2


If the Nov/Dec 2020 MA rankings use MA points over the last 5 years, then the clubs representing India in 2019 and 2020 should be ahead of both Uzbekistan and Iraq by 0.866 and 2.765 points respectively by the end of the 2020 AFC sporting season and also ensure that we stay ahead of Jordan and Tajikistan, to move to the 5th position in West Asian conference and get 1 group stage and 2 preliminary/play-off slots for the 2021 sporting season


If the Nov/Dec 2020 MA rankings use MA points for the previous 4 years, then the clubs representing India in 2019 and 2020 should be ahead Iraq and Tajikistan by 0.599 and 1.563 respectively by the end of the 2020 AFC sporting season and also ensure that we are ahead of both Uzbekistan and Jordan, to move to the 5th position in West Asian conference and get 1 group stage and 2 preliminary/play-off slots for the 2021 sporting season.


SCENARIO 3


If the Nov/Dec 2020 MA rankings use MA points for the previous 5 years, then the clubs representing India in 2019 and 2020 should be ahead of both Uzbekistan and Iraq by 2.468 and 2.767 points respectively by the end of the 2020 AFC sporting season and also ensure that we are ahead of both Jordan and Tajikistan, to move to the 5th position in West Asian conference and get 1 group stage and 2 preliminary/play-off slots for the 2021 sporting season


If the Nov/Dec 2020 MA rankings use MA points for the previous 4 years, then the clubs representing India in 2019 and 2020 should be ahead of both Iraq and Uzbekistan by 0.601 and 0.385 respectively by the end of the 2020 AFC sporting season and also ensure that we are ahead of Uzbekistan and Jordan, to move to the 6th position in West Asian conference and get 1 group stage and 1 preliminary/play-off slot for the 2021 sporting season.


SCENARIO 4


If the Nov/Dec 2020 MA rankings use MA points for the previous 5 years, then the clubs representing India in 2019 and 2020 should be ahead of Uzbekistan and Iraq by 2.468 and 4.367 points respectively by the end of the 2020 AFC sporting season and also ensure that we are ahead of both Jordan and Tajikistan, to move to the 5th position in West Asian conference and get 1 group stage and 2 preliminary/play-off slots for the 2021 sporting season


If the Nov/Dec 2020 MA rankings use MA points for the previous 4 years, then the clubs representing India in 2019 and 2020 should be ahead Iraq and Uzbekistan by 2.201 and 0.385 respectively by the end of the 2020 AFC sporting season and also ensure that we are ahead of both Uzbekistan and Jordan, to move to the 6th position in West Asian conference and get 1 group stage and 1 preliminary/play-off slot for the 2021 sporting season.


You can take a look at 4 other scenarios where BFC fail to win the AFC Cup here.


Bengaluru FC continues its AFC Cup 2018 campaign on the 22nd of August at 8pm against Altyn Asyr from Turkmenistan. You can stream the game live on the AFC Cup Facebook page



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