In a development that can hit India hard, the Asian Football Confederation on Wednesday announced the scraping of the AFC Challenge Cup through which the country qualified for the flagship Asian Cup in 2011.
In a regional shake-up, the AFC said that next month’s Challenge Cup in Maldives will be the last. The winning team of the AFC Challenge Cup, a tournament meant for second rung Asian countries, automatically qualifies for the Asian Cup.
Though the continent’s football governing body AFC also decided on an expansion of the flagship Asian Cup from 16 to 24 teams from 2019 onwards, it is unlikely to benefit India as they will have to compete in a tough qualifying round.
The 2015 edition of the AFC Asian Cup will be held in Australia.