Mumbai: With the 2020-21 edition of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) now just 10 days away, preparations for the new season are in full swing. The upcoming campaign promises to be bigger than ever before following the expansion of the league with the addition of SC East Bengal and ATK Mohun Bagan. Hero ISL 2020-21 will now witness an unprecedented 115 games, up from 95 last season. All clubs will play each other in a double round-robin format with the top four clubs in the standings at the end of the regular season qualifying for the playoffs.
The new campaign, in fact, marks the return of the first major live sporting action in India after the COVID-19 pandemic, making Hero ISL 2020-21 a unique season with plenty of challenges for the players, management and organizers, who will be in a bio-secure bubble for the entirety of the league. With that in mind, here’s all you need to know about what promises to be another action-packed season.
The maximum number of substitutes has been increased from three to five, keeping in mind the welfare of players amid the ongoing pandemic. Teams can use their five substitutes over a maximum of three intervals, and it doesn’t include the changes at the half-time break.
All clubs must have a minimum of five and a maximum of seven foreign players in their squad. Among the foreign players in the squad, at least one of them must be Asian Football Confederation (AFC) affiliated. A maximum of five of these foreign players can be on the field at any point of a game along with a minimum of six Indians. Furthermore, all clubs are required to have a minimum of two ‘Developmental Players’ –- players who were born on or after January 1, 2000 –- in their matchday teams.
Hero ISL 2020-21 will also be entirely staged in the football passionate state of Goa. Keeping in mind the safety and well-being of everyone involved, Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) decided to host the new season behind closed doors across three stadiums in Goa. The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda, the Tilak Nagar Stadium in Vasco and the GMC Stadium in Bambolim are the three venues that have been chosen to host the matches with strict training and social distancing protocols in place.
The schedule for first 11 rounds of matches has been released already and features six double-headers – all of which will be played on Sundays. The opening match of the campaign on November 20 will witness Kerala Blasters FC going up against ATK Mohun Bagan at the GMC Stadium.