Port in the AFC: What Happens Next


Port’s stunning end-of-season form (4 wins in the last 5 games, scoring 18 and conceding 3) means they’ve finished in lofty 3rd place. Not only does this mean we’ve finished ahead of Muangthong, it also means there is a strong possibility of qualifying for the AFC Champions’ League qualifiers.

AFC qualifying for Thai clubs works like this: the winning team qualifies directly for the group stages, whilst the runners-up and the FA Cup winners enter the 2nd round of qualifiers. However, if one of the top two teams also wins the FA Cup, then the team in third – Port – gets the third AFC place. And it just so happens that, on 27 October, T1 winners Buriram will take on Chiang Rai Utd in the FA Cup final, which means that if they win, Port get that third slot.

This graphic explains what happens next:



Should Port qualify, they will enter the qualifying tournament in round 2, where their opponents are already known – 2018 V League champions Hanoi FC, with the game to be played at home. Hanoi won the V League by a huge 20+-point margin this season and have several Vietnam national team players, as well as Vietnamese-Nigerian goal machine Hoang Vu Samson who had a brief & unhappy spell at Buriram earlier this season; yet it is almost certainly a winnable game.

That, unfortunately, is where the good news ends, for Port’s next game would see them travel to China – in winter – to face the team finishing 4th in the Chinese Super League. That team will be either Shandong Luneng Taishan, or Beijing Sinobo Guoan. Shandong have former Southampton striker Graziano Pelle in their ranks; Beijing boast players with international caps for Brazil & Spain, as well as a striker who scored 120 goals in 144 games for RB Salzburg. If (and it’s the biggest IF ever seen on The Sandpit) by some footballing miracle, Port get past that huge hurdle, they’ll be in the group stage.

Add in the fact that the PAT doesn’t meet the AFC’s host stadium criteria, and essentially what AFC qualification boils down to is a game against a Vietnamese team at Supachalasai, followed by a right shoeing in freezing conditions in China. But let’s ignore that now, & focus on the huge bragging rights value it would give us. Are you watching Legoland?


Tim Russell

Tim Russell

The founder and editor of The Sandpit, Tim has been in SE Asia since 2003 and in Bangkok since 2012, where he runs a travel tech business. Tim has followed Port FC since 2014, and is also a fan of his hometown club Coventry City, and French club AS St-Etienne. He has written for the likes of Football365, ITV.com, NME and The Quietus, and is a regular contributor to God Is In the TV. He's a keen photographer and his work can be seen on his website.

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