KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Asia's football body on Wednesday announced an expansion of the flagship Asian Cup from 16 to 24 teams but killed off the lower-level Challenge Cup as part of a regional shake-up.
The 2019 Asian Cup will climb to 24 teams but next month's Challenge Cup in the Maldives will be the last, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said.
Preliminary qualifying for the Asian Cup and World Cup will also be combined, the body said following an executive committee meeting.
Teams will be divided among eight groups with the pool winners and four best-placed second sides reaching both the Asian Cup and the final World Cup qualifiers. The next 24 best teams will be split into six groups of four to battle it out for the remaining Asian Cup spots, the AFC said in a statement.