The Indian Super League (ISL) which started with just eight teams, and now has 11, will restructure the playoffs by involving six teams, instead of four, from next season.
The ISL till the 2021-22 season had teams finishing between 1st to 4th after the league stage qualifying for the playoffs in a two-legged semi-final format with the top team facing the 4th and the second playing the third for a place in the final.
The ISL technical committee have approved the format of the six-team playoff, according to a report in the Times of India. The top two teams directly qualify for the semi-finals, with the teams in 3rd taking on 6th and 4th facing 5th in a single-legged qualifier, which will be played at the home side of the team that finished higher on the points table, to determine the final four. The semi-finals remain the same with the clash being decided by a two-legged home and away tie.
“When the ISL kicked off, there were eight teams, half of which qualified for the playoffs. Since then three new teams have been added, while the playoff format has remained the same. With ISL expected to expand in the future, this new format will provide more opportunities for the participating clubs,” a source close to the development told TOI.
According to the TOI report, none of the teams objected to the change in format.
“That’s understandable. Qualifying for the playoffs is getting tougher with each passing season and nobody is really assured of a place among the top four. It’s competitive, so if there are more spots to fight for, I don’t think the clubs would object,” TOI quoted a club member who attended the meeting.
“This is a win-win situation. There is now an incentive for clubs to finish one and two. The top team gets AFC Champions League spot, besides prize money of Rs 3.5 crore, while the second-placed teams get a direct playoff spot, without having to go through a tricky qualifier. Even five and six remain in contention for the ISL trophy,” another club official told TOI.