New Delhi [India], March 13 (ANI): Century-old Mohammedan Sporting Club will play host to Jamshedpur FC Reserves when the second Division I-League 2017-18 will kick off at the Barasat Stadium near Kolkata on Wednesday.
The opening match will be followed by Langsning FC squaring off against Chennaiyin FC Reserves.
18 teams will be plying their trade in the league this year, a rise of 50% from last season's 12.
Teams traversing the length and breadth of the country will take part in the league. There are also three teams who will be making their debut this season, in the form of TRAU FC from Imphal, Manipur, FC Kerala from Thrissur, Kerala and Madhya Bharat FC from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.
In the preliminary phase, the teams have been divided into three groups of six. The teams will take on each other on a home and away basis with the top two 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.
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 Hero 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 3 players the teams can have only U-23 players in their squad.(ANI)