By Michael Church
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese Super League champions Jiangsu FC suffered another setback on Thursday after the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) confirmed the club would not participate in the upcoming edition of the Asian Champions League.
Jiangsu's future has been uncertain since their owners, the Suning Group, announced last month the club would cease operations just months after winning their first CSL title.
Suning have said they will no longer fund the club and are seeking buyers. Jiangsu must have a new owner in place before the start of the new CSL season, which is expected to kick off in late April.
The AFC said in a statement they had "taken note of the Chinese Football Association's confirmation of Jiangsu FC's withdrawal" from this season's continental club championship.
Jiangsu had been drawn in Group G alongside Nagoya Grampus from Japan and Malaysia's Johor Darul Ta'zim plus the winners of a playoff between Pohang Steelers of South Korea and Thai side Ratchaburi.
Following Jiangsu's withdrawal, Pohang and Ratchaburi will now both feature in the group phase of the competition when it begins in June.
Several of the club's top performers from last year have already left the club, including captain Wu Xi, who signed for Shanghai Shenhua last week.
Jiangsu are the second Chinese club to exit this year's Asian Champions League before a ball is kicked after Shandong Luneng were removed from the competition due to licensing issues.
(Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, Editing by Peter Rutherford)