HONG KONG - Saudi Arabia will host the first two editions of the Asian Champions League Elite finals when the continent's revamped elite club competition begins next season, the Asian Football Confederation said on Friday.
The competition, which replaces the existing Asian Champions League, begins in September next year and sees the region's top 24 clubs divided into two leagues of 12 across East and West.
Clubs will compete home and away for a place in the round of 16, with the eight winners advancing to a centralised final round where teams play the quarter-finals, semis and final in a single leg format.
The move is part of a major overhaul of club competitions in Asia that has also seen the top prize in the continent's top tier club event increase to $12 million from $4 million.
Saudi Arabia won the rights for the first two years of the finals ahead of a rival bid submitted by the Iraq Football Association "after evaluating the infrastructure and accommodation requirements", the AFC said in a statement.
The Saudis have also been provisionally awarded the hosting rights for a further three years subject to an AFC review of the initial seasons, it added.
The event is the latest to be awarded to the Saudi Arabia, which will organise the FIFA Club World Cup later this month and is the only nation to have submitted a bid to host the 2034 World Cup finals.
The country has already been granted the rights to host the 2027 Asian Cup finals and Riyadh will organise the 2034 Asian Games.
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Peter Rutherford)