Due to improved results in the 2016 AFC club rankings, Hong Kong received for the first time in history a direct group stage ticket for the Asian Champions League campaigns in 2017 and 2018. However, they lost their direct qualifying sport to Malaysia until at least 2021.
In 2017 Eastern were knocked out in the group stages. In 2018 Premier League champions Kitchee celebrated the first victory of a Hong Kong team in the group stages, beating Kashiwa Reysol 1-o at home thanks to a Cheng Chin-lung goal in the last minute.
In 2019 Kitchee will have the chance to qualify for the ACL group stages by entering the 2nd qualifying round. If they fail to proceed, they will continue their campaign in the AFC Cup. Last season’s runners-up Tai Po will either get the direct AFC Cup group stage ticket or will have to play a qualifier, depending on Kitchee’s results in the ACL qualification.
The qualifiers usually start at the end of January, while the group stages begin one month later.