Bengaluru FC will join Indian Super League group-stage toppers FC Goa and new joint entity of ATK and Mohun Bagan to compete at continental events, All India Football Federation confirmed on Thursday.
FC Goa secured their place in the group stage of the AFC Champions League, becoming the first Indian club to secure direct entry into Asia’s top club competition after emerging league winners during the 2019-’20 ISL season.
Last season’s I-League champions Mohun Bagan were supposed to gain an AFC Cup group stage entry with the playoff spot for the AFC Cup going to the ISL winners. But with Mohun Bagan and ATK set to merge ahead of the 2020-’21 season, one of the continental slots opened up.
The AIFF have handed the additional AFC Cup slot to Bengaluru FC who finished third in the league stages of the 2019-’20 ISL season, which meant that all continental slots went to ISL teams.
“The AFC Cup play-off slot goes to Bengaluru FC who finished third in the Hero ISL league phase in 2019-20. ATK, who finished runners-up in the league phase of the Hero ISL 2019-20, as per their joint venture with Mohun Bagan, qualify automatically for the direct slot for the AFC Cup,” AIFF said in a statement.
When AFC earlier announced they would be allotting an additional continental berth from 2021 to India, there were talks that runners-up of the ISL playoff rounds, could be awarded the slot. Chennaiyin FC lost to ATK in the finals after beating overcoming FC Goa in the final four. However, AIFF has now decided to award the extra continental spot based on the league standings rather than the playoffs.