The All India Football Federation (AIFF) have confirmed that the I-League will have 12 teams next season and they plan to use the format of an extended home and away second division - which means that a club will be promoted to the league only from the 2023-24 season onwards.
The recently concluded I-League campaign consisted of 13 teams, with Gokulam Kerala FC winning the title on Saturday, becoming the first team to defend the title in the competitions history. Meanwhile, Kenkre FC, who finished at the bottom of the table were relegated from the next edition.
"Next season there won't be any qualifiers and we will have a normal second division which will be played home and away, parallelly to the I-League. The regulations are very clear and have been circulated. The team at the bottom (in the I-League) gets relegated and in the subsequent edition (2023-24), we will have promotion and relegation," Sunando Dhar, CEO of league and development said as quoted by Times of India.
"The normal second division could not be held due to the pandemic. Our plan was always to have home and away. We have already intimated state associations to finish their local leagues by May 31, which is the end of this season. They will then nominate the teams for the second division.
"The system was always to have a home and away second division. You win the local league in one year, then play second division (in year two) and subsequently the champion plays in the I-League (in year three). That's the progression," he added.
The second division is scheduled to be played from November to March, and only one team from each state will be allowed to take part in it. Reserve sides from the Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League will be allowed to take part in the competition, though they will not be eligible for promotion.