Explained: How the biggest 2nd Division I-League format will work
A number of ISL clubs have also entered their reserves side in the league.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) conducted a meeting at the AIFF Headquarters, Football House in New Delhi on Tuesday that put forth the format and schedule for the Super Cup that will be held for the first time involving both I-League and Indian Super League teams.
The committee also finalized the details regarding the structure and format of the I-League 2nd Division putting to rest any worries about the league's existence. The meeting convened by the top officials of the footballing governing body decided to split the I-League 2nd Division into two phases - the preliminary round and the final round.
The preliminary round of the I-League 2nd Division will see 18 teams from across the nation participate in what promises to be the biggest second division league ever conducted in Indian football.
The teams will be divided into three groups consisting six sides who will play home and away matches between them, with each team playing a total of ten matches to decide the initial group standings.
The winners of the three groups and the second best-placed side will move on to the final round of the I-League 2nd Division. The preliminary round will be held from March 16, 2018, to May 15, 2018.
However, there is an added stipulation here that if any of the Indian Super League reserve teams finish as the table-toppers or in the second position, the next best finishing non-ISL team will be awarded the chance to play in the final round.
The final round of the I-League 2nd Division will be conducted amongst the final four teams at a central venue from May 21, 2018, to May 27, 2018. The winner of the round will earn the promotion to the Hero I-League for next season. NEROCA FC had won last year's edition of the I-League 2nd Division and have set the Hero I-League alight with their exploits, currently sitting at the top of the league standings.
Seven sides of the Indian Super League will likely be entering their reserve teams into the I-League 2nd Division with the other slots filled by the clubs from the different regions of the nation. The state associations nominate the entries of the clubs to the division and the AIFF takes the final call after a thorough analysis of the finances, stadiums etc. of the concerned clubs.
The foreign player registration details have been specified by the committee as well. Each club in the 2nd Division can register 3 foreigners, out of which one player needs to hail from an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) member country.
The eighteen teams for the preliminary round of the I-League 2nd Division are stated below:
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).