The final round of qualifiers for the 2023 Asian Cup will be changed from the home and away format to single round-robin ties and played in centralised venues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Asian Football Confederation said on Wednesday.

The Asian Cup, the continental governing body’s flagship men’s tournament, is set to be held in China from June 16 to July 16 in 2023.

“The decision was taken by the AFC Executive Committee after taking into consideration the existing challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, while prioritising the safety and wellbeing of all stakeholders…,” the AFC said in a statement.

 

The AFC said that the final round will be held on June 8, June 11 and June 14 next year, with the governing body opening the bidding process in due course to countries interested in hosting those games.

“The new match schedule may be amended where necessary pursuant to relevant provisions of the competition regulations,” the AFC added.

The 2023 Asian Cup will feature 24 teams, with Qatar as the defending champion after it won its maiden title in the 2019 edition in the United Arab Emirates.

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