New Delhi, March 13: Century-old Mohammedan Sporting Club will play host to Jamshedpur FC reserves at the Barasat Stadium near Kolkata as the second division of the I-League kicks off on Wednesday (March 14). On the same day, Langsning FC will square off against Chennaiyin FC reserves.
Eighteen teams will ply their trade in the league this year, a rise of 50% from last season's 12. Teams traversing the length and breadth of the country will take part in the league. There are also three teams who will be making their debut this season - TRAU FC from Imphal, Manipur, FC Kerala from Thrissur, Kerala and Madhya Bharat FC from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.
Launched the Jamshedpur FC Reserve team yesterday. I could only see dreamy eyes of the all the boys selected in the squad. Show the love as they play their first ever match on the 14th March against Mohammedan Sporting in Kolkata.#jamkekhelo #jamshedpurfc pic.twitter.com/6mDmWF2xRm— Souptikk Daas (@souperbb) March 11, 2018
In the preliminary phase, the teams have been divided into three groups of six. The teams will take on each other on a home-and-away basis with the top two from each group qualifying for the six-team final phase. The winner of the Final Phase will then be promoted to the top tier of Indian Football, the I-League.
Although the top two sides from the preliminary phase are slated to qualify for the final phase, the ISL reserve sides will not qualify for the fFinal even if they finish within the top two spots and their place will go to the next best non-ISL team.
I-League CEO Sunando Dhar had some words of encouragement for the teams involved. "NEROCA FC's success in the I-League 2017-18 should serve as an impetus for teams to shine. From second division champs to second spot in the top division. I wish all the teams the very best and hope the fight hard to reach the top level of Indian football," he said.
This season will also see the advent of the reserve team concept in Indian Football. For the first time, top teams from the Indian Super League will field their reserve sides in the I-League 2nd division. These teams will solely comprise Indian players. An added criterion is that Playing XI will most comprise U-23 players as the limit for senior players, aged above 23, has been fixed to three.
The groups of the preliminary round:
Group A: Real Kashmir, Lonestar Kashmir, Delhi Dynamos FC (reserves), Hindustan FC, Delhi United, FC Pune City (reserves)
Group B: Madhya Bharat SC, FC Goa (reserves), Kerala Blasters (reserves), Ozone FA, Fateh Hyderabad AFC, FC Kerala
Group C: TRAU FC, Langsning FC, Mohammedan Sporting, JSW Bengaluru FC (reserves), Jamshedpur FC (reserves), Chennaiyin FC (reserves)
Source: AIFF Media