The fourth season of the Indian Super League is just around the corner and this time it promises to be bigger than before. From new teams, to new rules and recognition from the AFC, we list the top 5 reasons why the ISL 2017-18 could be a notch above its previous seasons.
This season will see inclusion of two new teams, taking the total number of teams from 8 to 10. Two times I-League champions and AFC Cup finalists Bengaluru FC will join the league along with TATA Steel’s Jamshedpur FC. This means the league will get bigger and more players have an opportunity to shine. New teams will bring in new fans, new stadium and add colour to the league. Jamshedpur’s presence will give a big boost to the football of the region and could well produce local talent in future.
One of the most professionally run clubs in India, Bengaluru FC is finally taking part in the ISL. Though initially against the ISL, Bengaluru FC got on board convinced with the efforts made by the league to become more viable. The presence of Bengaluru FC might as well be a thread bridge between the fans of the two leagues – I-League and ISL. Having earned respect from fans across the country, Bengaluru could be a an asset to the ISL.
MORE INDIANS IN PLAYING XI
The ISL has made some big changes in order to move towards a stable future and a big decision was to finally reduce the number of foreigners per side to 5 from earlier 6. Now a minimum of 6 Indians must be on the field at any time of the match. This is exciting as ever since the league commenced, a fair amount of focus has been on the foreign signings than the Indians and more Indians in the lineup means greater opportunity for home grown players to show themselves. Teams can have 8 foreigners in their squad.
AFC CUP SLOT
The ISL champion will now get to participate in the AFC Cup, Asia’s second highest club competition equivalent to the Europa League. Bengaluru FC has been the only team to have reached the final of the tournament and now with ISL set to field a team for the competition, we could expect them to go one better and win the title. It will be in 2019 when an ISL side will feature in the AFC Cup Group Stage. The I-League champion still gets the AFC Champions League Qualifiers slot. For AFC Competitions, ISL teams will have to field at least 7 Indians and a maximum of 4 foreigners including on Asian.
A LONGER LEAGUE
It’s not a 3-month show any longer! The ISL 2017-18 will be played from November through March next year, making it a 5 month long league with more gaps between matches, giving more time for the players to recover. A total of 90 league and 5 play-off matches will be played between November 17 and March 17. The league will run simultaneously with the I-League.
There could be many more reasons to follow the ISL 2017-18 but these 5 sit at the top of the list. The ISL may still not be free from flaws but comparing with the previous editions, this season will see some major reforms taking place which could in turn help the league take Indian football forward in the long run.
We hope in the coming years the league turns to the promotion/relegation system and football clubs like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Shillong Lajong have a fair chance of participating in the league.