As many as 55 teams from all over the country will take part in the U-16 youth football league, beginning on Saturday in Kolkata and Shillong simultaneously. The number of teams is the highest ever in any league in India, according to an All India Football Federation (AIFF) release on Friday.
Teams from all I-League clubs and two teams from Indian Super League (ISL) franchises along with many academy teams will be fielding their sides for the top honours across 10 zones.
The league, which commenced last season as the U-15 Youth League, has been refurbished as the U-16 meet keeping in mind the 2017 U-17 World Cup, to be hosted by India.
I-League CEO Sunando Dhar said the increase in the numbers highlights the “urge among the clubs to perform”. “The numbers speak. Fifty five teams are participating in the U-16 youth league which is indeed remarkable. It proves the urge among clubs and academies to prove their mettle,” he told www.i-league.org on Friday.
“I wish success to all the participating teams. The competition will be intense and may the best team win,” he added. The teams from every zone will play on a home-away basis among themselves in the round robin stage and 16 teams will qualify to the national final round.
Those 16 teams will be divided into four groups and the group champions will qualify for the semi-final which will be followed by the final to decide the champions. Minerva Academy FC, champions from the last edition, have been clubbed with Youngsters Club, Lonestar Kashmir, Real Kashmir and Jammu and Kingdom Bank.