Football returns to India after a long break since the 2017-18 I-League finished all the way back on 8th March, with the highly fancied Indian Super League rebooting itself for a new season. The fifth edition of the ISL commences from 29th September and is expected to be played until January of next year, making it the longest duration for the league to be played till date.
The ISL is expected to give the national viewers a break from the plethora of prestigious international football, and treat themselves with a better experience of the domestic football.
The match fixtures for the 2018-19 season have been released on the official ISL website. However, fixtures have been announced for only till the 17th of December and update on the remaining matches will be provided on a later date.
The opening match will be played between two-time champions ATK and two-time finalists Kerala Blasters, which is set to be hosted at the Yuva Bharati Krirangan (Salt Lake Stadium) in Kolkata on 29th September 2018. The curtain raiser will showcase an old rivalry between the two sides, who have previously met in the semi-final round of the tournament.
The tournament will also have three breaks this time - two FIFA windows (8-16 October 2018 and 12-20 November 2018) and one for the preparatory camp of the Indian National team for the crucial upcoming 2019 AFC Asian Cup which will be played in UAE.
The ISL will run alongside the 2018-19 season of the I-League, and both domestic and foreign players have had to make the choice between both the top tier football leagues of India. Also, there will be a major change in the way matches have been played in the ISL previously.
Instead of playing two matches on a single match day, the 2018-19 season will see a single match being played daily. All kickoffs will begin from 19:30 hours in the evening.
Like the previous edition of 2017-18, the new season will feature ten teams with changes in the management and of course, players. The teams are ATK (Kolkata), Bengaluru FC, Chennaiyin FC, Delhi Dynamos, Goa FC, Jamshedpur FC, Kerala Blasters, Mumbai City FC, NorthEast United and Pune City FC.
Chennaiyin FC will be playing as the defending champions having won the 2017-18 season with a victory over Bengaluru FC in the finals. Also, since last season the champions of the ISL will be granted a spot in the AFC Cup, Asia’s second tier club competition. However, the berth for the AFC Champions League will be be reserved for the I-League champions.
Despite the usual rumors, the 2018-19 of ISL doesn’t feature big names compared to its previous editions. The spotlight will be on legendary Australian footballer Tim Cahill, who will be donning the jersey of the “men of steel” Jamshedpur FC. Other notable names include former Portuguese international Paulo Machado who will be playing for Mumbai City FC and Venezuelan striker Miku, playing his second season for Bengaluru FC.
The number of foreign players in squads has been reduced from eight to seven with the salary cap also being reduced. However, if any marquee players are signed, their salaries will not be accounted under the salary cap.