Thinley Namgay

The Dragon Boys have clinched their place in the 2027 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers after a recent 2-0 victory over Hong Kong in the World Cup Qualifiers.

When assessing the outcomes of the 10 teams eliminated in the initial round of the qualifiers, it is noteworthy that only Bhutan has successfully advanced directly to the third round without the need to engage in the playoff round of the Asian Cup Qualifiers.

During the preliminary round of the qualifiers, the Dragon Boys garnered three points. Meanwhile, the Maldives, Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Macau each secured one point. On the other hand, Guam, Mongolia, Timor Leste, and Brunei finished without any points. These nine teams will have to partake in the playoffs to secure a spot in the third round.

Nevertheless, the schedule for the third round is yet to be determined. Following their match against Hong Kong, all national players are currently actively participating in the ongoing BoB Bhutan Premier League.

Officials from the Bhutan Football Federation have expressed their commitment to enhancing the national team by recruiting talented players, coaches, and necessary facilities. They have underscored that the national team has two more years to prepare for the Asian Cup Qualifiers, with optimistic expectations.

At the moment, only the first round of Asian Cup Qualifiers has concluded, which featured teams ranked between 27th and 46th in Asia.

The second round, set to commence next month, will witness 36 teams, including the ten victors from the first round, along with 26 other teams ranked from first to 26th in Asia. These thirty-six teams will be subdivided into nine groups, each comprising four teams, and will compete in a double-robin format.

The nine group winners and group runners-up from the second round will secure their places in the Asian Cup, alongside host Saudi Arabia, and will simultaneously progress to the third round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.

During the playoff round, the nine teams that were eliminated in the first round, along with Northern Mariana Island, will engage in two-legged matches to determine the top five teams that will advance to the third round.

In the third round, a total of 24 teams will vie for the remaining six slots in the Asian Cup. Bhutan, alongside 18 third and fourth-placed teams from the second round, and the five victors from the playoff round, will participate in this stage.

Ultimately, the lineup for the Asian Cup 2027 will comprise 24 teams: the nine group winners, nine group runners-up from the second round, and the six strongest teams from the third round.