The Lion City Sailors are set to go up against Thai heavyweights Buriram United after being drawn in Group B of the inaugural 2024/25 ASEAN Club Championship (ACC) Shopee Cup.

The other teams to be drawn with the Sailors in the group include 2023 V.League 1 champions Cong An Ha Noi FC, 2023 Malaysia FA Cup runners-up Kuala Lumpur City, Philippines champions Kaya FC–Iloilo and Indonesia Liga 1 side Borneo FC Samarinda.

The draw for the brand new ACC Shopee Cup took place in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on Thursday (9 May) morning.

The competition features a total of 12 clubs from around the region –  including the league champions and cup winners or runners-up of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam – battling to be the top club in Southeast Asia. 

The Sailors will proudly fly the flag for Singapore as the nation’s only representative in the competition.

Following the qualifying playoff rounds in mid-July, the group-stage matches for the 2024/25 ACC Shopee Cup will be played between 21 Aug 2024 to 6 Feb 2025, with home-and-away matches in a single round-robin format. 

The top two teams of each group will then progress into the two-legged semi-finals scheduled in April 2025, with the final – also a two-legged affair – due to take place on 14 and 21 May 2025. 

The Sailors’ participation in the ACC Shopee Cup means the club will be fighting on two regional fronts in the 2024/25 season, including the newly-revamped Asian Football Confederation Champions League 2 (ACL2).

The rigors of competing on multiple fronts will no doubt be demanding, but Head Coach Aleksandar Ranković has urged his side to rise to the challenge. 

“It’s a chance for us to benchmark ourselves against the best of Southeast Asia, and it’s a good opportunity for our players to show their qualities against top sides in the region,” said the Serb. 

“Playing against these teams will also help us prepare for the ACL2, so I want us to take this competition seriously and try to qualify for the semi-finals.”

Having witnessed firsthand the fanaticism and rivalry in Southeast Asian football at the international level, Sailors and Singapore captain Hariss Harun is raring to face this new challenge head-on.

“From what we’ve seen from previous ASEAN Mitsubishi Electric Cups, it is clear how much football means to fans in this region. This tournament will bring out that competitiveness, especially with the element of national pride, so there’s lots at stake,” said the 33-year-old.

“We can definitely expect to play among huge crowds and hostile atmospheres in some of the away matches. It won’t be easy, but it serves as a great opportunity for the younger boys in the team to step up and develop into better players.”

The Sailors’ full fixtures list for the 2024/25 AFF Shopee Cup will be confirmed in due course.