Hero Super Cup to kick off from March 15; AFC U-23 Championships from March 22
The 2019 edition of the Hero Super Cup will kick off from March 15 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. All the 10 Indian Super League teams and the 10 I-League clubs, barring the one who finishes in the bottom, will be a part of it. However, the Indian players born on or after 1 January 1997 and selected for the national team for the 2020 AFC U-23 Championships Qualifiers will not be available for their respective clubs in the annual extravaganza.
The format of the main tournament and the qualifiers will remain the same, with the top six ISL and I-League clubs getting an automatic qualification berth. However, the relegated I-League team will not be a part of the qualifiers this year.
Minerva Punjab and Chennaiyin FC, if they qualify, will have their AFC Cup match on April 3. If either of the clubs progress further in the Hero Super Cup, their fixtures will have to be altered.
Kalinga Stadium will be hosting the Hero Super Cup for the second consecutive time after Bengaluru FC clinched the title by beating East Bengal in the final in the previous edition. Indian Arrows are already using the 50,000 seater pitch as their home ground for the ongoing 2018-19 I-League and the Hero Gold Cup- featuring the women's team of Iran, India, Nepal, and Myanmar- will also be played at the same venue from February 9 to February 15.
The I-League will sign off on March 3, with the fixture between NEROCA and Gokulam FC at 05:00 p.m. at the EMS Stadium in Kozhikode putting the finishing touches to it. The group stages of the ISL will also finish on the same date. However, the two-legged semi-finals and finals will ensure the league will be concluded later.
The 2020 AFC U-23 Championships Qualifiers, on the other hand, will begin from March 22. Derrick Pereira is the favourite to coach the Blue Tigers for the tournament, who will begin their campaign against Tajikistan on 22 March. It will be followed by matches against the hosts Uzbekistan on March 24 and arch-rivals Pakistan on 26 March. The twelve group winners and four group runners-up will qualify for the main tournament in Thailand, which in turn doubles up as an Olympic Qualifiers.