JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Feb 8- The 2018 CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup competitions, which begin this weekend, will be the last staged between February and December.
From next year, they are scheduled to kick off in September and end the following May, bringing the dates in line with many African domestic seasons.
Countries with a September/May season include Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia, whose clubs are among the strongest in the continent.
Between the February/December 2018 and September 2019/May 2020 seasons there will be a one-off December/May edition covering 2019.
The leading club competition — the African Cup of Champions Clubs until renamed the CAF Champions League in 1997 — has been played annually for 53 years.
CAF ditched the African Cup Winners Cup and CAF Cup competitions after the 2003 finals and introduced the second-tier Confederation Cup, the African equivalent of the Europa League.
National league winners, and runners-up from the top 12 ranked nations based on results over five years, qualify for the Champions League.
Confederation Cup elimination rounds are confined to third and fourth-place league finishers and national cup winners, with rare exceptions.
A play-off round follows with the 16 Confederation Cup survivors facing Champions League last-32 losers for group places.
Champions League winners pocket $2.5 million and Confederation Cup title-holders receive $1.25 million.
Meanwhile, Record eight-time title-holders Al Ahly of Egypt are among 10 former winners who qualified for the 2018 CAF Champions League, which begins this weekend with preliminary round first legs.
Defending champions Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and five-time winners TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo are other powerful outfits in the 59-club field.
After a bye, Wydad launch their title defence against Stade Malien of Mali or newcomers Williamsville of the Ivory Coast, neither of whom look likely giantkillers.
There are also five teams who have won other CAF competitions, making it one of the strongest line-ups in the 54-year history of the leading African club competition.
AFP Sport looks at what lies in store at the qualifying stage for eight clubs capable of becoming champions and pocketing $2.5 million.
Al Ahly (Egypt)
After a preliminary-round bye, the 2017 runners-up captained by goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy should eliminate Kadiogo of Burkina Faso or Mounana of Gabon and secure entry to the lucrative group stage.
Al Hilal (Sudan)
Twice runners-up, an Omdurman outfit packed with Sudanese internationals must overcome LISCR of Liberia and Leopards of Congo Brazzaville or Port of Togo, tasks well within their capabilities.
Entente Setif (Algeria)
The 2014 winners are unlikely to be troubled by Real Bangui of the Central African Republic, but probable last-32 rivals Al Tahaddy of Libya loom as a potential “banana skin”.
It would be a stunning turn-up if the 1994 and 2011 champions fell to Concorde of Mauritania or the winners between Gor Mahia of Kenya and Leones Vegetarianos of Equatorial Guinea.
Etoile Sahel (Tunisia)
The only club to win all five current and former CAF competitions, including the 2007 Champions League, have a bye, then confront Plateau United of Nigeria or Eding Sport of Cameroon, both debutants.
Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa)
South Africa winger Percy Tau stars in a multi-national squad seeking a second title in three years and it is difficult to imagine Rayon Sports of Rwanda or LLB Academic of Burundi stopping them.
TP Mazembe (DR Congo)
Although only the winners between weak sides Ngaya of the Comoros and Songo of Mozambique stand between Mazembe and the group stage, they will be wary after failing to qualify for the past two seasons.
Wydad Casablanca (Morocco)
Having axed coach Hussein Amoutta over poor domestic form and sold star scorer Achraf Bencharki, the two-time champions are set to meet 2009 Confederation Cup winners Stade Malien with a group place on the line.
CAF Champions League
Preliminary round: Feb 9-11 and 20-21; first round: Mar 6-7 and 16-18; groups: May 4-6 and 15-16, July 17-18 and 27-29, Aug 17-19 and 28-29; quarter-finals: Sept 14-16 and 21-23; semi-finals: Oct 2-3 and 23-24; final: Nov 2-4 and 9-11
CAF Confederation Cup
Preliminary round: Feb 9-11 and 20-21; first round: Mar 6-7 and 16-18; play-offs: Apr 6-8 and 17-18; groups: May 4-6 and 15-16, July 17-18 and 27-29, Aug 17-19 and 28-29; quarter-finals: Sept 14-16 and 21-23; semi-finals: Oct 2-3 and 23-24; final: Nov 23-25 and 30-Dec 2