Mohammedan Sporting Club will host Jamshedpur FC Reserves in the inaugural match of the 2nd Division League 2017/18 on Wednesday, at the Barasat Stadium near Kolkata. A total of 18 teams will be plying their trade in the league this year, six teams more than last season’s 12.
There will also be three teams making their debut, in the form of Imphal’s TRAU FC, FC Kerala from Thrissur and Madhya Bharat FC from Bhopal.
The teams have been divided into three groups of six for the preliminary phase. The matches will be played on a home and away basis, with the top two teams from each group qualifying for the six-team final phase. The winner of the final phase will then be promoted to the top tier of Indian football, the I-League.
Although the top two sides from the preliminary phase are slated to qualify for the final phase, the ISL Reserve sides will not qualify for the final even if they finish within the top two spots and their place will go to the next best non-ISL team.
I-League CEO, Sunando Dhar had some words of encouragement for the teams involved. “Neroca FC’s success in the I-League 2017-18 should serve as an impetus for teams to shine. From 2nd division champs to 2nd in the top division. I wish all the teams the very best and hope the fight hard to reach the top level of Indian Football,” he said.
This season will also see the advent of the Reserve team concept in Indian football. For the first time, top teams from the Indian Super League will field their Reserve sides in the I-League 2nd division. These teams will solely comprise of Indian players. An added criterion is that apart from three players, the teams can have only U-23 players in their squad.