The Asian Football Confederation on Monday announced the centralised host venues for the group stages of the 2021 AFC Cup with Singapore welcoming clubs from Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar, and the Philippines as they host Groups H and I of the ASEAN Zone.
The qualifying playoffs for the tournament kicks off on April 7 followed by the competition slated to begin on May 14 with matches in the West, East and South Zones. Group stage fixtures in the ASEAN Zone, meanwhile, are scheduled to begin on June 22.
Singapore is to host Group H, comprising their representatives Lion City Sailors FC, Malaysia's Kedah Darul Aman FC, Vietnam's Saigon FC and the winners of ASEAN Zone Playoff 2. Singapore will also host Group I featuring Geylang International, Malaysia's Terengganu FC, Filipino outfit Kaya FC-Iloilo and either Shan United or Ayeyawady United from Myanmar -- depending on results of the 2021 AFC Champions League qualifiers.
The host nation for Group G of the ASEAN Zone is to be decided at a later date. That third and final group in Southeast Asia will be contested between Vietnamese Cup holders Hanoi FC, 2019 Indonesia Liga 1 winners Bali United, Cambodian champions Boeung Ket FC and the winner of ASEAN Zone Playoff 1.
Al Ahed FC of Lebanon, the competitions 2019 champions, will begin their title defence in Group A of the West Zone at Manama, Bahrain where they will be up against local outfit Al Hidd Club, Syria's Al Wahda SC and Oman's Al Nasr.
Group B comprising Lebanon's Al Ansar FC, Bahrain's Muharraq Club, Jordan's Al Salt SC and Palestine's Balata Center and Group C featuring Al Faisaly SC of Jordan, Al Seeb Club of Oman, Tishreen SC of Syria and winners of the West Zone playoff match will be hosted in the Jordanian capital of Amman.
Maldives will host Group D of the South Zone at Male and will see India's ATK Mohun Bagan, local representatives Maziya Sports & Recreation, Bangladesh's Bashundhara Kings and winners of the South Zone playoff on the pitch.
The two groups in the Central Zone will play out in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The three-team Group E sees local side FC Ravshan, Kyrgyz side FC Dordoi and Ahal FC of Turkmenistan compete for a place in the zone finals. Group F has FC Alay of Kyrgyz Republic, Turkmenistan's Altyn Asyr FC, locals FC Khujand and AGMK FC or FC Nasaf of Uzbekistan.
Hong Kong will host Group J of the East Zone where local sides Eastern Long Lions and Lee Man FC will be up against Mongolia's Athletic 220 FC and Chinese Taipei's Tainan City FC for a place in the inter-zone semifinals.
The 2020 edition of the AFC Cup was cancelled by the AFC due to the coronavirus pandemic. Al Ahed emerged champions during the 2019 season overcoming DPR Korea's 4.25 SC 1-0 in the final at Kuala Lumpur.