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Suzuki extends backing of AFF Football Championship

Japanese automotive and motorcycle manufacturer Suzuki has extended its title sponsorship of the AFF Football Championship, a national team tournament organised by the Asean Football Federation.

The extension covers the 2018 edition of the tournament, which runs from November 8 to December 15 next year.

As part of the deal, the biennial tournament will continue to be officially known as the AFF Suzuki Cup. Suzuki has sponsored the event since 2008.

The tournament is contested by national teams from Southeast Asia. Thailand is the defending champion, having defeated Indonesia 3-2 on aggregate in the final of the 2016 event, which was held in cities across the region.

Suzuki’s renewal comes at a time when the tournament will see changes to its format, aimed at providing more exposure for the players in their home country and driving greater fan engagement.

Starting next year, the qualification round will see the two lowest-ranked Asean teams playing off against each other, with the winner joining the top nine ranked countries in the group stage.

Each group will comprise five teams, with each team playing two matches at home and two matches away. The semi-finals and finals format will remain home-and-away matches played over two-legs. This means throughout the course of the tournament, there will be more home matches held in every participating country in an effort to further enhance established rivalries.