The AFC was “left with no choice” but to use venue hubs this season, John said during an online panel at the Soccerex conference.
He cited closed borders and lack of flights across the continent adding to time pressure to complete the 2020 competition with traditional home-and-away series. The AFC’s target date for the final is Dec. 19.
The western section of the knockout rounds begins Saturday in Doha — without defending champion Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia which topped its group after playing five of its six games.
Al-Hilal was removed from the competition this week after so many players tested positive for COVID-19 it could not fulfil its last group-stage fixture.