AFC Cup: Indian Super League teams eligible to play in tournament from next year

Mumbai: Asia's football governing body has dealt a major boost to the Indian Super League by ruling that its franchise-based teams will be eligible for the AFC Cup from next year.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said in a statement late Tuesday that the winners of the glitzy tournament, which is backed by India's richest man Mukesh Ambani, will go into the continental competition's qualifying round.

It said it had acted on a recommendation from the All India Football Federation (AIFF), which is grappling with how best to accommodate two rival leagues — the ISL and the older I-League.

Atletico de Kolkata players celebrate with the ISL trophy. ISL

Atletico de Kolkata players celebrate with the ISL trophy in season 3. ISL

"The Committee approved that the I-League champions will play in the AFC Champions League Play-off round and the ISL Champions will play in the AFC Cup preliminary stage... from 2018," read the statement.

The ISL, whose city-based franchise format apes cricket's hugely successful Indian Premier League, has grown in popularity since it was launched in 2014, outstripping the 10-year-old I-League in broadcast ratings.

It is adding two new teams to this year's event, bringing the number of clubs to 10, including one side which has defected from the I-League.

Bengaluru FC, two-time I-League winners, and Jamshedpur will be the new franchises when the next season kicks off in October. They are backed by major companies — the Jindal South West conglomerate and Tata Steel respectively.

There have long been reports of a possible merger between the two competitions but the AIFF has played down such talk in recent months.

The AFC said in its statement that the ISL and the I-League will run simultaneously for six or seven months in 2017 and 2018 and that as a "short-term bridging solution" it was giving "special dispensation" to the ISL.

Italy's Alessandro Del Piero and French striker Nicolas Anelka are among the veteran former stars to have played in the ISL but local media reports say sides are starting to focus more on nurturing young Indian talent.


Updated Date: Jul 26, 2017 15:47 PM

Also Watch

Social Media Star: Abhishek Bachchan, Varun Grover reveal how they handle selfies, trolls and broccoli
  • Monday, July 16, 2018 It's a Wrap: Soorma star Diljit Dosanjh and Hockey legend Sandeep Singh in conversation with Parul Sharma
  • Monday, July 16, 2018 Watch: Dalit man in Uttar Pradesh defies decades of prejudice by taking out baraat in Thakur-dominated Nizampur village
  • Monday, July 16, 2018 India's water crisis: After govt apathy, Odisha farmer carves out 3-km canal from hills to tackle scarcity in village
  • Sunday, July 15, 2018 Maurizio Sarri, named as new Chelsea manager, is owner Roman Abramovich's latest gamble in quest for 'perfect football'

Also See