The Indian Super League (ISL) champions will now play in the AFC Cup preliminary stage.(Vipin Pawar / ISL / SPORTZPICS)
The Indian Super League (ISL) champions will now play in the AFC Cup preliminary stage.(Vipin Pawar / ISL / SPORTZPICS)

Indian Super League winners eligible to play 2019 AFC Cup qualifiers

Indian Super League and I-League will run simultaneously as a ‘temporary short-term bridging solution’, according to Asian Football Confederation. With this decision, the AFC officially recognised ISL
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, Kolkata
UPDATED ON JUL 25, 2017 10:23 PM IST

It is official: the champions of the fourth Indian Super League (ISL) will play the AFC Cup qualifiers in 2019.

This was approved as a ‘special dispensation’ by the Competitions Committee of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) at a meeting in Doha on Tuesday. With this decision, the AFC officially recognised the Indian competition that will be bigger with 10 teams and longer this season.

The committee accepted the recommendation of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to have the I-League and ISL run simultaneously as a ‘temporary short-term bridging solution’,” according to a media release issued by the AFC.

READ | Indian Super League expansion should not harm I-League: Bhaichung Bhutia

“AIFF’s recommendation to the AFC was that the ISL will replace the Federation Cup, whose winner is currently allocated an AFC Cup preliminary stage place.

“Therefore, 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 – as long as all clubs adhere to the AFC rules and regulations, particularly club licensing, from 2018,” according to the media release.

“The situation will be reviewed on a yearly basis with conditions which, in addition to adherence to club licensing regulations, include promotion, production, a player allocation system and the following of the Road Map agreed between the AFC and Indian football stakeholders at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur on June 7, 2017.”

READ | Possibility of I-League not being India’s top-flight has existed since 2010

Like the ISL, the I-League too is looking at having 10 teams and has already issued an advertisement seeking new clubs. The AIFF expects interested bids from Kerala, Rajasthan and New Delhi. By the end of August, replacements for Bengaluru FC, which joined the ISL, and a team from west India that may pull out are likely to be known.

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