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I-League teams which are favourites to qualify for ISL next season

In an announcement that will come as a relief to the dozen clubs that compete in the I-League, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) confirmed on Saturday that the winners in the upcoming season of the country’s second-tier competition will be promoted to the top division, as decided three years ago.

Former Indian football skipper Shabbir Ali feels that the promotion of the I-League teams to the Indian Super League is something that will immensely motivate the clubs playing in the former.

I-League teams favourite to qualify for ISL next season

Favourite I-League to qualify for ISL

The AIFF announced earlier that the Roadmap for Indian Football, as approved by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in October 2019, after consultations with the ISL and I-League clubs, the AIFF and its marketing partners. As per the Roadmap, the winners of the 2022-23 and 2023-24 I-League seasons will stand a chance to gain promotion to the ISL without any participation fee, basis fulfillment of the club licensing criteria.

“It’s very important for all clubs, players and officials that we have promotion from the I-League to the ISL. It gives the clubs a lot of incentive to win the league,” said Shabbir Ali, the former India forward. “Not only do you win the I-League and get the prize money and have a title to your name, but you also get to go to the top league, which is a big motivation.”

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There are several teams that will be making a claim for the top spot in the I-League to take the vertical leap into the ISL. It is a golden opportunity for them to play in the top tier of Indian club football without having to pay the humongous franchise fee.

I-League teams favourite to qualify for ISL next season

Gokulam Kerala FC is one of the strongest contenders to make the jump from the I-League to the ISL. The defending I-League champions will eye a third consecutive league win and finally earn their place in the top tier. Mohammedan SC finished as runners-up last term and would have more incentive this year to compete for the league title. The club also made it to the 2022 Durand Cup semi-finals, losing out to Mumbai City FC but knocking out Kerala Blasters FC on the way.

Churchill Brothers SC have a rich history and the club have the means to finish as I-League champions in the forthcoming season. However, players like Tana, Abdoulaye Sané and more could play a role in helping the club win the competition. Playing in the ISL has been an ambition for the club and its fans and it could soon be a reality.

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To be eligible for a spot in the Indian Super League (ISL), however, the I-League winners will have to fulfil the Premier 1 licensing criteria, a strict set of rules that a club must comply with to be eligible to compete in tournaments conducted by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) along with the ISL. These minimum requirements fall across sporting, infrastructure, administrative, legal and financial categories.

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