The Lion City Sailors will find out who their opponents in the revamped Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League Two will be on Friday, 16 August, when the official draw ceremony for its Group Stage takes place at the AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

The AFC confirmed yesterday (19 June) that Aleksandar Ranković’s charges will gain direct entry into the brand new second-tier men’s club competition in Asia. 

Having qualified for the competition by finishing last season as the top local side in the Singapore Premier League (SPL), the Sailors are among the 32 clubs that will be divided evenly into eight groups to contest a round-robin, home-and-away format between September 17 to December 5.

(Photo: AFC)

The knockout stages will be played in the first half of 2025, with a one-off final slated for 17 May next year.

During their inaugural ACL campaign two years ago, the Sailors made history as the first local team to defeat a K-League 1 side with a stunning 3-0 victory over Daegu FC. They went on to accumulate seven points in the group stages, the highest ever for a Singaporean team in the ACL.

In 2023, they recorded a couple of notable results as they defeated Hong Kong’s Kitchee SC 2-1, before claiming a significant victory over two-time ACL winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors with a 2-0 win at Jalan Besar Stadium.

This will be the third consecutive season that the Sailors will represent Singapore in AFC club competitions, and captain Hariss Harun is looking forward to flying the nation’s flag high again at the regional level.

“It’s a huge honour for the club to consistently compete in Asia’s top club competitions – it’s something we don’t take for granted, and we’re always going out there with the mentality to showcase what Singapore football can achieve,” said the 33-year-old, who holds the record for the most ACL appearances by a Singaporean player with 18 under his belt.

“We may be competing in the ACL Two this year, but the prestige of the competition remains high, and the team’s determination to continually raise our standards is stronger than ever. Currently, our focus is on our SPL title charge, but we’ll also work hard to prepare for our debut campaign in the ACL Two.”