Mumbai: The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Saturday recognised the Indian Super League as the country's premier competition while recommending the AIFF to "open a pathway" for two I-League clubs' entry into ISL by the end of 2020-21 season.
The AFC's executive committee approved All India Football Federation's (AIFF) proposed roadmap for the country's sport during a meeting in Vietnam. In a release on Indian football's roadmap, the AFC stated, "In season 2019-20, the ISL will attain the status of premier league competition in Indian football." Another key recommendation by the AFC is to open a "pathway for two I-League clubs' entry into the ISL by the end of the 2020-21 season, subject to the criteria being fulfilled".
The top continental body will allow the winning ISL club to represent India in the AFC Champions League play-offs, and the I-League winner will get to play in the AFC Cup play-off.
The endorsement comes days after the AFC held a summit in Kuala Lumpur on October 14 and involved representatives of both ISL and I-League as well as the AIFF and IMG-Reliance. The ISL winners would also be entitled to a play-off place in the AFC Champions League and the I-League champions would take a place in the AFC Cup in "a package that takes into consideration the recommendations of the FIFA/AFC report of 2017". In addition, starting with the 2022-23 and 2023-2024 season, the winner of the I-League will stand a chance to be promoted to the ISL with no participation fee, provided they fulfil sporting all merit.