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Soccer-AFC plan Asian Cup expansion to 24 teams


Jan 26 (Reuters) - The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) plans to expand the Asian Cup from 16 to 24 teams as part of a raft of changes designed to increase the number of international matches for member nations.

The AFC competitions committee made the proposal at a meeting in Oman on Saturday, at which they also announced plans to merge regional preliminary qualification rounds for the World Cup and Asian Cup.

"Competitions are the main products of AFC and I am happy that it is in good hands," AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa said in a statement.

"We must market our product and generate income to sustain football across the continent.

"I am sure that the changes that happen will have big impact in Asian football and will benefit our member associations.

Australia will host the 16th edition of the quadrennial Asian Cup next year with the first expanded tournament likely to take place in 2019.

Any proposals made by the AFC competitions committee must first be ratified by the confederation's executive committee to take effect. There are 47 member nations in the AFC. (Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by John O'Brien)

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