I League 2nd Division : While Indian football hasn’t witness much of the success on the World level in the recent years, the situation can be quoted as “Changed” in the past few months. With the inception of Football leagues like ISL (Indian soccer league) and I league, it can certainly been said that the future holds some good things for Indian Football. Moreover, in 2008 the Indian football has seen the Inception of the I league 2nd division in the football context of India which was kind of the platform for the Top teams from lower grade football to get promoted to the famous I league and making it work like the leagues around the world where the bottom teams of the top league gets relegated to the lower division.
I League 2nd Division – Background
While we understand that the I-League 2nd Division saw its inception during the 2008 season, the first game of the same tournament was held on 25 March 2008 between the Football clubs Mohammedan and Amity. The Tournament was an outright success and there were four teams namely, Mohammedan, Mumbai, Vasco, and Chirag United which saw them to be promoted in the I -league during the 2008 season.
After its Huge popularity amongst the Indian Football fans, the tournament saw its second editions happening in 2009 where again four teams of Pune, Shillong Lajong, Viva Kerala, and Salgaocar grabbed themselves a promotions to the top league in the country.
Though the success rate of the teams participating dropped in 2010 where only 2 teams got to see themselves being promoted into I-League. It was only ONGC ( who were also the sponsors of the whole league 2008 to 2011) and HAL which saw promotion in 2010 while Shillong Lajong and Sporting Clube de Goa got promoted in the 2011 edition.
It was again In 2012, when ONGC got to see promotion into the I league along with the United Sikkim and from thereon every year two top teams have seen themselves playing in the top tier along with the best football teams in the country in the I league.
One of the exception has happened In 2014 season when , only one team got promoted from the I league 2nd division and simultaneously , only one team saw relegation from the top league during the 2013–14 season.
Though the tournament saw its inception in the year 2008, it was allotted with its official logo for the first time by the All India Football Federation on 17 March 2015. The year also witnessed only one team to be promoted to the I- league from the I league Second division and One team as well to be relegated to the I league 2nd division from the I league.
I League 2nd Division League Format
Earlier, the league was being played in a format where the teams were split in certain groups with competition matches being held in a completely neutral venue with each group playing in one particular stadium. Then there were the Final round of matches which was kind of double round-robin format, which eventually see top two teams to get qualified for the I league. It was from the year 2015 when the preliminary round and the split of teams based on division got eliminated and all the 8 teams were lined up against each other in such a manner that they get to play twice at neutral venues during the whole tournament.
The 2015–16 I-League 2nd division again saw through some relevant changes in the tournament format where the core committee decided to organize the matches in a a home and away basis format. The preliminary rounds of the tournament were stated to be played in the ‘conference’ system where all teams got divided into two zones, Western Conference and Eastern Conference. It was then ascertained that Top 3 teams from each conference will then be qualified for the final round of the I league 2nd division.
It was again during the 2016-2017 season when the l-League Core Committee decides to change the format of the tournament once again while inviting teams from the state associations to take part in 2nd division league 2016–17 qualifiers. The state associations were henceforth required to nominate 2 of their best teams(not including the teams which were participating in the I league for the same season along with participation in the previous season of the I league 2nd Division ), to participate in the 2nd division qualifiers. The teams will fight it out amongst themselves in the zonal round followed by the final round.
The whole format was designed in such a manner that the state teams would only come against the I -league 2nd division teams in the qualifiers and they were required to compete with each other on a zonal basis till then. The same two top teams were then be required to fulfill the club license guidelines and given their clearance they were allowed to be a part of the qualifiers against the 2nd league Division teams.
Well, we can also call this as a league of “Changing Formats” as the same got changed yet again in the 2017-2018 season when the whole league was divided into two stages, the preliminary and the Final stage. The Tournament, for the first time,Also witnessed the reserve teams from the Coveted ISL(Indian Soccer league)
If we talk about the Preliminary stages, there were 18 teams in total which were divided into three groups with every match to be played on a home and away basis eventually. The winners of each group along with the second placed team were then got to qualify for the final rounds of the Tournament. Though there was a catch to the situation that if any ISL club get to grab any of the top two positions, the same gets rewarded to the next Non- ISL team to qualify for the Final round. The Final round was then scheduled to be played on a major Football venue and the winner of the round would then be earning a promotion to the Hero I-League for next season.
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Number of Teams along with Foreign Players allowed in 2018 Season
Talking about the 2018 season, seven sides from the Indian Super League would be competing against the rest of teams from the country along with the teams coming after the nominations from the state associations.
Moreover, each and every club or team playing in the I league 2nd division format was allowed to play only three foreign players within their team with one of the member coming from the AFC(Asian Football Confederation) Member country.