Auckland City FC will be chasing a record 11th OFC Champions League title as the flagship Oceania men’s club tournament kicks off in Vanuatu this weekend.
The New Zealand club champions have been an almost unstoppable force over the years but will be wary of underestimating their Group A opponents Suva FC, Solomon Warriors and Lupe Ole Soaga SC, whom they face in Luganville over the next week.
The defending champions suffered a major blow when their talisman Emilio Tade was ruled out of the tournament with a serious knee injury. The Argentine will be sidelined for the next 10 weeks.
The Solomon Warriors and Suva FC are both expected to compete for a place in the semi-finals where the top two teams in each pool cross over. Samoan side, Lupe Ole Soaga SC were impressive in winning the qualifying tournament in Apia in February but acknowledge this challenge will be a step up for a young squad missing several players who impressed in that tournament.
Group B, based in the capital Port Vila, will start on Monday. French speaking teams AS Pirae from Tahiti and Tiga Sport from New Caledonia meet in the opening match before hosts Ifira Black Bird FC play Papua New Guinea’s representative Hekari United.
All four teams appear capable of reaching the semi-finals in what promises to be an extremely competitive pool.
OFC President Lambert Maltock is proud to be hosting the tournament in his home country.
“I am excited and delighted that we have given everything to make sure the stadiums are ready for the kickoff of the tournament.” Maltock said.
“We expect big crowds. For the small island of Ifira, it’s the first time their team has qualified and the whole of Port Vila will want to be here.
“It will be noisy, Vanuatu is a die-hard football country, the people love football, and they have real football here. We have asked the communities to support the visiting teams too and you will see that during the tournament, it will be a celebration of football in Oceania, like a mini–World Cup,” Maltock beamed.
The tournament winners will play in the FIFA Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia in December. It’s the last annual edition of the tournament which includes the Champions League winners from the six FIFA Confederations and the domestic champions from the host nation.
From 2025 an expanded FIFA Club World Cup will likely include 32 teams with 12 from Europe, six from South America, four each from Asia, CONCACAF, and Africa and one from Oceania.
The qualification process for the expanded tournament, to be played every four years from 2025, will be based around team’s performances during the cycle leading up to the new competition.
Catch ALL 15 matches in the OFC Champions League 2023 in Vanuatu streaming LIVE and free here on OFC TV on the OFC website. Information will be updated below accordingly. All times local:
MATCH DAY ONE
1200 Auckland City FC v Solomon Warriors – WATCH HERE
1500 Suva FC v Lupe Ole Soaga – WATCH HERE
1200 AS Pirae v Tiga Sport – WATCH HERE
1500 Ifira Black Bird v Hekari United – WATCH HERE
MATCH DAY TWO
1200 Solomon Warriors v Lupe Ole Soaga – WATCH HERE
1500 Suva FC v Auckland City FC – WATCH HERE
1200 Tiga Sport v Hekari United – WATCH HERE
1500 Ifira Black Bird v AS Pirae – WATCH HERE
MATCH DAY THREE
1200 Lupe Ole Soaga v Auckland City FC – WATCH HERE
1500 Solomon Warriors v Suva FC – WATCH HERE
1200 Hekari United v AS Pirae – WATCH HERE
1500 Tiga Sport v Ifira Black Bird – WATCH HERE
1130 Auckland City FC v Ifira Black Bird – WATCH HERE
1500 AS Pirae v Suva FC – WATCH HERE
1400 WATCH HERE