Fans of Guangzhou Evergrande cheer their team during their Chinese Super League (CSL) football match against Tianjin Quanjian in Guangzhou, in China's southern Guangdong province on November 4, 2017.
Luiz Felipe Scolari thanked the Guangzhou Evergrande players and fans on November 4, after what is expected to be his final game in charge at the freshly crowned Chinese Super League (CSL) champions. / AFP PHOTO / STR / China OUT        (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Season Preview: Everything You Need to Know as the Chinese Super League 2018 Prepares to Kick Off

The Chinese Super League is one of several summer leagues set to kick off in the coming days.

Here's everything you need to know from frontrunners to promoted sides to rule changes, before the first ball is kicked on March 2!

5. 2017 in Review

Luiz Felipe Scolari's Guangzhou Evergrande won the 2017 CSL - their seventh consecutive title - despite winning just two of their last five games.

The division's top scorers and entertainers Shanghai SIPG, featuring Brazilian trio Hulk, Elkeson and Oscar and two of China's best ever players (Wu Lei and Zheng Zhi), finished second.

Newly promoted Tianjin Quanjian under World Cup 2006 winner Fabio Cannavaro (who was named manager of the year) qualified for the Asian Champions League by virtue of finishing third, while 11th-placed Shanghai Greenland Shenhua also earned a spot in Asia's top continental tournament as runners up in the FA Cup.

Liaoning Whowin finished bottom of the league with just 18 points, while Yanbian Funde were the other relegated side.

Fabio Capello's Jiangsu Suning were the surprise underwhelmers, finishing 12th out of 17 despite boasting the likes of Ramires and Alex Teixeira.

Veteran Israel striker Eran Zahavi was named Player of the Year (ahead of the likes of Ricardo Goulart and Ezequiel Lavezzi) and Golden Boot winner after netting a massive 27 goals in 30 appearances.

4. The Promoted Sides

Dalian Yifang and Beijing Renhe are the newcomers to the league.

Under the management of Chinese footballing legend Ma Lin, Dalian will hope Yannick Boli (pictured above with Anzhi Makhachkala) can continue his goal return to keep them afloat amongst the big boys. The one-cap Ivory Coast forward scored 16, as Dailan took the League One title in 2017. They also now boast Jose Fonte among their ranks.

One of two CSL sides based in the country's capital, Renhe have brought in former Argentina international Augusto Fernandez for just under €5m. The former Celta Vigo and Atletico Madrid star will now be expected to supply Ecuador striker Jaime Ayoví with the goals to keep them afloat.

3. The Contenders

When you're the champions seven times on the bounce and you've just appointed the previous season's manager of the year, you're expected to be favourites.

However, while Cannavaro takes over at Guangzhou Evergrande with plans to make it eight in a row, things probably be won't be quite so straightforward. While - arguably the league's best player - Goulart is still there, Paulinho is not and has not been least yet.

Last season's runners up Shanghai SIPG also a have a new coach after Andre Villas-Boas traded football for the Dakar rally.

Another well-travelled Portuguese takes over in the form of ex-Porto and Al Ahly manager Vitor Pereira. With possibly the strongest squad, nothing less than a title challenge and going deep in the Asia Champions League will be allowed.

Tianjin Quanjian fans can look forward to a full season of Anthony Modeste, who scored seven in eight at the end of last season after joining from FC Köln, linking up with Alexandre Pato and Axel Witsel.

Manager Manuel Pellegrini and star player Lavezzi are expected to better the fourth place finish with Hebei China Fortune last season, and the club have acquired a new midfield general to help do just that (see below). 

Beijing Guoan's ninth place finish was an embarrassment for the club with the second highest overall points total in CSL history. Former Leverkusen boss Roger Schmidt has his former Red Bull Salzburg forward Jonathan Soriano at his disposal, as well as the league's two most expensive winter signings...

2. New Faces

Paulinho and Carlos Tevez may be gone but there are a few new faces in the league for 2018. 

Javier Mascherano became one as the most decorated players of all time to join the CSL revolution, as the 'Little General' (now dubbed 'Pony Brother' due to an unfortunate phonetic similarity with his name in Chinese) left Barcelona for Hebei China Fortune.

While new government rules (more on those later) have seen the influx of top level stars curbed somewhat, Congolese striker Cedric Bakambu still became the most expensive African player ever (including taxes), as he signed for Beijing Guoan from Villarreal.

Experienced midfielder Augusto Fernandez of Atletico Madrid left Spain for Beijing Renhe, and completing the quartet of high profile La Liga talents to go east was Jonathan Viera. The 28-year-old Spain international couldn't turn down the financial offering of Beijing Guoan and left struggling Las Palmas and the relative quiet of the Canary Islands for the Chinese capital to link up with Bakambu.

The transfer window in the CSL remains open until the end of February. The likes of Yannick Carrasco, Karim Benzema and Thiago Silva have all been linked but moves next winter seem much more likely.

1. Any Other Business

Let's talk tax!

After threatening to overthrow the European hegemony with outrageous levels of spending, the CSL's quest for global significance has been curbed (or at least altered) by the government's new 'transfer tax' rules.

After an influx of major stars at huge prices, the focus from the top now appears to be on ensuring home grown players are produced, as President Xi Jinping and the Chinese government pushes forward with plans to make the national team a force on the international stage.

As of last summer, all transfers of overseas players carry a tax. In short, if the transfer fee paid by a CSL club is less than €6m, the same amount must be put into the club’s youth system. However, in cases where the fee is greater than €6m, the same amount must be paid to the state as part of a grassroots football development fund. 

In essence, it is a 100% tax, doubling the cost of transfers.