AIFF developmental side Indian Arrows (Reserves) have withdrawn from the I-League due to the upcoming Class 10 and 12 Board Examinations across the country. The reserves of the Arrows side have players from U16 and U18 Indian National Teams and the tournament has coincided with the Hero I-League 2nd Division.
The league will kick-off on 25th January with 18 teams comprising of eight reserve sides of ISL teams, one reserve side each from AIFF and the I-League. The other eight teams would include the main sides. The ISL reserve sides would not comprise teams from NorthEast United and Odisha FC. The reserve side from AIFF is the developmental side, Arrows who have withdrawn while the sole reserve side from the I-League are Punjab FC. The competitive eight sides with the reserve sides were grouped as follows in three groups :
Group A: Lonestar Kashmir FC, Punjab FC (reserves), Garhwal FC, Rajasthan FC, ATK (reserves), Jamshedpur FC (reserves).
Group B: Mohammedan Sporting, Bhawanipore, Indian Arrows (reserves), Hyderabad FC (reserves), Bengaluru FC (reserves), Chennaiyin FC (reserves).
Group C: ARA FC, Mumbai City FC (reserves), FC Goa (reserves), FC Bengaluru United, FC Kerala, Kerala Blasters (reserves).
The teams will face each other home and away in the preliminary round. The Group winners will progress to the final round. The best second-placed team between Group A and Group C will follow suit as the fourth team in the final round. However, if the reserve teams of ISL sides finish as group winners and runners-up, the position will be passed on to the next non-reserve side.
With the Arrows withdrawing from the tournament, Group B is slated to be a five-team competition but as Arrows were a reserve/developmental side, it does not affect the qualification mechanism of Group B and only the group winners will progress to the final round as mentioned earlier.
In the final round, four qualified teams will play at the central venue on a ‘single-leg’ league system. Eventually, the winners will qualify to the next edition of I-League i.e. Hero I-League 2020-21.
FC Kerala host Kerala Blasters (Reserves) at 2 PM in the EMS Corporation Stadium on 25 January in the 2nd Division I-League opener. The games are expected to be LIVE streamed on the Indian Football Team or I-League Facebook Page.