The incredible growth of the Indian Super League has been given another boost, with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) confirming that the winners of the Indian Super League will be given a position in the AFC Cup qualifying play-offs.
Following recommendations from the All India Football Federation (AIFF), Indian football will be allocated the extra slot for the ISL champions, adding to the existing I-League winners position. The move comes as the ISL expands this year into a ten-team competition, with Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC joining the 2017-18 season.
A proposed third AFC position for Indian football was rejected by the AIFF – the proposal being the winners of the Indian Super Cup receive a position in the Asian Champions League play-offs.
A second proposal involved a play-off between the winners of the ISL and I-League, with each team going into different stages of the ACL competition.
This year’s ISL will also feature a five-month long season stretching between November 2017 to March 2018 – the longest in the competition’s history.
With this announcement, talks of a potential merger between the ISL and I-League now seem all but scuttled.
The ISL continues to show signs of strong growth and maturity despite its short history. The announcement of an AFC Cup berth for the ISL also means the competition is no longer registered as a private tournament, but rather a recognised football league under the AIFF, AFC and FIFA.
This year’s ISL will also see a stronger focus on developing homegrown talent, with the removal of compulsory marquees from the competition. Nonetheless the league continues to attract big names, including former Manchester United stars Dimitar Berbatov and Wes Brown.