China, Japan and South Korea are almost certain to qualify for the new professional Asian Basketball League (ABL) semi-finals in Beijing later this year under the revised playing format. The ABL, which will tip off in August in Tokyo, will feature eight regional countries - the above-mentioned sides plus the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Hong Kong. China, Japan and South Korea will be allowed to play one foreign player, while the Philippines and Taiwan will be allowed play two at any one time. Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia will be allowed to register three foreign players and play two at any one time. According to Asian Basketball Confederation president Carl Ching Men-ky, China, Japan and South Korea will play more games in the tournament in which the semi-finalists will be decided by number of games won. The first leg will start in Tokyo on August 14, featuring the three North-Asian sides and the Philippines in a round-robin format. The four sides will then travel to Seoul and Manila for the second and third legs. The Philippines will then be dropped for the remaining legs in Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Hong Kong, where China, Japan and South Korea will play each city's hosts. The four sides with the highest number of wins after the Hong Kong leg, which will start on September 17 at Queen Elizabeth Stadium, will play in the semi-finals in Beijing. The finals will be held from September 27 at the Chinese capital and will be a best-of-three format. 'We originally planned to play a home-and-away format, which costs much more,' said Ching. 'However, as the economic environment is not so good at the moment, plus World Cup [soccer] and the Asian Games are coming, it was difficult to find enough sponsors. We will see how the first year goes and then we may play home-and-away next year.' Ching added that Amateur Sports Federation and Olympic Committee president Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, Hong Kong tycoons Cecil Chao and Lam Kin-ngok pledged to lend financial support to the tournament.