The I-League 2nd Division will kick-off on Saturday with four games on the first game day across three states in Kerala, Gujarat and West Bengal.
ATK Reserves take on Jamshedpur Reserves in Group A, Bhawanipore FC face Mohammedan Sporting in Group B, while ARA FC and Mumbai City FC Reserves and FC Kerala and Lonestar Kashmir Reserves face each other in Group C on the first day.
17 sides are playing in the competition after the withdrawal of Indian Arrows due to Class 10 and 12 Board Examinations which included 8 reserve teams from the Indian Super League franchises and a sole reserve team from the I-League side, Punjab FC in association with RoundGlass. The 17 teams have been divided into three groups of at least six. Group A and C have 6 teams while Group B will just be a 5-team affair following the departure of Arrows. The teams will face each other in a round-robin league system in their respective groups before playing the final round in a single-legged league at a neutral venue.
The group champions of all three groups will qualify for the main round while the best runners-up among Group A and C will qualify for the final round as the fourth team. The ISL reserve sides and Punjab FC will not qualify for the next round even if they do finish top of the standings. The next non-reserve team of the ISL and I-League sides will succeed the former.
The tournament winners will advance to the I-League next season in 2020-21 and play for the Asian spots in the most coveted club football trophy in India,
Many teams qualifying for the I-League after dominating the I-League 2nd Division unmasked several fairy tales. With no odds often in their favour, the second division teams have always managed to surprise heavyweights like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in the I-League. Teams like Aizawl FC, NEROCA, Real Kashmir and Minerva Punjab have been giving other teams a run for their money even end up winning the Championship.The
The teams are as follows
Group A : ATK Reserves. Lonestar Kashmir, Jamshedpur FC Reserves, Punjab FC Reserves, Garhwal FC, Rajasthan FC
Group B : Bhawanipore FC, Hyderabad FC Reserves, Chennaiyin FC Reserves, Bengaluru FC Reserves, Mohammedan SC
Group C : ARA FC, FC Goa Reserves, Kerala Blasters FC Reserves, FC Bengaluru United, Mumbai City FC Reserves, FC Kerala