China will compete with South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand to host the Asian Cup in 2023, the Asian Football Confederation announced yesterday, a day after the nation revealed a plan to become a soccer superpower by 2050. The AFC said the 2023 tournament would be held in June or July with 24 teams playing a total of 51 matches through the course of 30 days. The teams will be split into six groups. At least six cities and eight stadiums are needed for the tournament. The capacity of each stadium for the group stage, round of 16 and quarter-finals must be at least 25,000, and capacity must be at least 40,000 for the opener, semi-finals and final. Fancy being the next manager of China’s soccer team? Apply here China’s goal for soccer superpower status includes interim targets of becoming one of Asia’s best teams by 2030 and of boasting 50 million players by 2020. China has increased its focus on the national soccer team since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012. One of the contenders to host the 2023 Asian Cup, Indonesia, has had its club and national level teams barred from international competition – including World Cup qualifiers – since last May due to political interference in its local football association. Thailand and Indonesia jointly staged the 2007 Asian Cup with Malaysia and Vietnam, while China last hosted it in 2004, when the national team finished second. South Korea last hosted the cup in 1960. The time frame to make China a soccer superpower was revealed on Monday in a document released jointly by the National Development and Reform Commission, the Chinese Football Association, the Sports Bureau and Ministry of Education. China’s soccer-mad President Xi Jinping’s passion for ‘the beautiful game’ sparked while a child Xi has repeatedly called for improved soccer training for the young to raise standards. While Xi was still vice-president in 2011, he expressed three wishes for China’s soccer future – for the country to qualify for another World Cup, to host a World Cup and to win a World Cup. Last year, a directive on soccer reforms was passed by a leading group founded and chaired by Xi. Another group was set up shortly after to overhaul the sport’s regulators and the market, which have long been plagued by corruption and inefficiency.