Ranked: Best campaigns by A-League Men’s teams in AFC Champions League history

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In the early days of A-League Men’s participation in the AFC Champions League, getting out of the group stage was a regular occurrence. Whether that meant getting knocked out in the Round of 16 or making it all the way to the final, there was an expectation of success.

Over the last few years that success has become a far less regular occurrence, and with Australian teams only getting one slot in the competition for 2023 it does not seem like this trend will change any time soon.

So sit back and enjoy a trip down memory lane, as we count down the best campaigns by A-League clubs in the AFC Champions League.

9) Newcastle Jets 2009 (Round of 16)

Whilst they are ranked ninth on this list, this does not take anything away from their achievements. The Novocastrians made it through to the Round of 16, collecting three wins and 10 points to come second in group E.

Unfortunately for them they came up against a primed Pohang Steelers squad, who ended up being the eventual champions. Their 6-0 loss to the South Korean side is the main reason they are ranked here, but a great effort to make it that far none the less.

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8) Central Coast Mariners 2013 (Round of 16)

Coming off a Premiership the year before and a Championship that season, the Central Coast Mariners were primed for a good showing in the 2013 AFC Champions League.

After narrowly escaping their group on seven points, similar to the Jets in 2009, it was the eventual winners Guangzhou Evergrande that they were drawn up against in the Round of 16. A 5-1 aggregate loss over two legs was just enough to get them higher on this list compared to their F3 rivals.

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7)  Melbourne Victory 2020 (Round of 16)

The last Australian team to advance out of the group stage, it was a mighty effort from the Melbourne Victory lads to get there.

After winning two separate playoff ties to even make the groups, they were able to get seven points over six games to secure them second place.

Unfortunately, in a continuing trend for Australian teams in the competition it was the eventual winners Ulsan Hyundai who they were drawn against. A valiant performance during the COVID-19 pandemic saw them fall short, losing the match 3-0.

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6) Melbourne Victory 2016 (Round of 16)

Seriously, what is with Australian teams drawing the eventual winners in the round of 16? The Melbourne team narrowly got through their group, coming second after beating South Korean side Suwon Samsung Bluewings on away goals in their two games.

They then came up against a dominate Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors side, only narrowly losing 3-2 over the two fixtures. Despite getting knocked out in the Round of 16, it was certainly a tournament that the Victory team could be proud of.

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5) Adelaide United 2010 (Round of 16)

Only two years removed from their finals appearance, Adelaide were able to top their group with ten points, beating Korean outfit Pohang Steelers on goal difference.

Unlike in 2008 they were unfortunately not able to make it past the round of 16, falling short in extra time against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

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4) Sydney FC 2016 (Round of 16)

The Sky Blues had a stellar group stage, toping their pool against K-League runners-up Urawa Red Diamonds and Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande.

Despite being in control of their Round of 16 match up against Shandong Luneng for much of the two games, a 90th minute goal in the second fixture for the Chinese side was enough to see them knocked out of the tournament on away goals.

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3) Adelaide United 2012 (Quarter-Finals)

A brilliant group stage saw the Red’s come away with thirteen points, collecting four wins and just a solitary loss on their way to the knockout phase.

A 1-0 win against Nagoya Grampus saw them come up against Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor, whom they topped in the group stage. Unfortunately for Adelaide they were not able to get the job done against them this time, falling to them 5-4 across two legs after extra time.

Despite the disappointing loss, it was a brilliant tournament from the South Australians none the less.

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2) Adelaide United 2008 (Final)

After toping their group undefeated with 14 points, Adelaide were able to defeat reining J-League champions Kashima Antlers 2-1 on aggregate in the quarter-finals.

A comfortable 3-1 win against Bunyodkor over two legs set them up with a mouth watering tie against Gamba Osaka for AFC Champions League gold. Unfortunately for the Reds, the Japanese side were just too good, coming out 5-0 victors and leaving United as runners-up.

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1) Western Sydney Wanderers 2014 (Winners)

There could be no other team on top of this list.

After topping their group on 12 points, Western Sydney went on a tear, defeating both Japanese champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande on away goals in the Round of 16 and quarter-finals respectively.

The Wanderers beat FC Seoul in the semi-finals 2-0, before a shock final against Al-Hilal had arrived. A Tomi Juric goal in the first leg and an Ante Covic masterclass in the second was enough to give the Wanderers the title, as well as top spot on this list.

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William Makepeace
Current Intern covering Canberra United. Sports Media student at University of Canberra who lives and breathes Football

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