The Indian Super League (ISL) will restructure the playoffs by incorporating six teams from next season rather than the four who qualify for the semifinals since the inception of the league. The ISL started with eight teams in 2014, four of which qualified for the semifinal playoffs. The winners of the playoff between 1v4 and 2v3 then contested the final for prize money of Rs 8 crore.
When the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) approved ISL as the top-tier league in 2019, the organisers rewarded the top-placed team at the end of the group stage with a direct spot in the AFC Champions League Asian football’s top-tier club competition. Besides the prize money, the winners were also awarded the League Winners’ Shield. Now, the ISL format is set to change from next season, with six teams qualifying for the playoffs.
In the new format that has been discussed with clubs and approved by the ISL technical committee, the top two teams will qualify automatically for the playoffs, while teams 3 & 6 and 4 & 5 will play a knockout match to see which teams make it to the final four. The single-leg clash will be played at the home venue of the higher-ranked team. The final four format remains unchanged, with games being played home and away.
Team 3 vs Team 6
Team 4 vs Team 5
Winner of Team 3 vs Team 6
Winner of Team 4 vs Team 5
The single-leg clash will be played at the home venue of the higher-ranked team. The final four format remains unchanged, with games being played home and away. “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,” said a source who has been tracking the development.
Till this season, FC Goa were the most consistent team in the ISL, finishing among the top four for six out of the first seven seasons. They failed to qualify just once in 2016 when Zico’s side finished at the bottom. This year, though, the Goans finished a lowly ninth, their worst showing since the start. Even Bengaluru FC, who topped the league on debut and won the ISL trophy in their second year, have now failed to qualify for two consecutive years. League winners Jamshedpur FC and Hyderabad FC made it to the playoffs for the first time this year, while Kerala Blasters made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.