A packed house is expected at Kochi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Friday as the fourth season of the Indian Super League (ISL) kicks off.
Defending champions Atletico de Kolkata will take on 2016 runners-up Kerala Blasters at the latter's home in the opening game.
The new season will include two new teams, and two new venues besides the personnel changes.
The existing eight franchises will return to the glamorous football tournament along with two new franchises.
Earlier this year, ISL had invited bids to add two more teams. They had shortlisted 10 cities namely Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Cuttack, Durgapur, Hyderabad, Jamshedpur, Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram, Ranchi, and Siliguri.
The franchises to win the bids were two-time I-League champion Bengaluru FC owned by JSW Group, and newly found Jamshedpur FC owned by the Tata Group.
The first match will be played on Friday, November 17, 2017. The Final Round will start in the second week of March 2018 before the season concludes on March 17, 2018.
Access the full schedule here.
Evolution of the tournament over the last three years coupled with inclusion of two new teams has prompted organisers to make changes to the format and the schedule.
The 2017–2018 season will run from November 2017 to March 2018. During the first three seasons, the league was played between October and December.
One of the major changes is that, unlike previous seasons, matches will only take place between Wednesday and Sunday every week.
However, each team will still play every other team twice (home and away), as before.
The top four sides will qualify for the Final Round. The team finishing first on the table will play team number finishing fourth in a two-legged (home and away) fixture. Similarly, team finishing number two on the table will compete against team number three. Winner of these contests, on aggregate, will proceed to the single-leg final.
Last season's recap
Mumbai City FC topped the league table followed by Sachin Tendulkar's Kerala Blasters, Delhi Dynamos and Atletico de Kolkata, all of whom qualified for the two-legged Semi-Finals.
Then, Kolkata entered the Final on a 3-2 aggregate while Kerala Blasters reached the final following a penalty shootout against Delhi.
Kolkata then defeated home team Kochi 4-3 in the penalty shootout in a thrilling Final to lift the title.
Delhi's Brazilian forward Marcelo Leite Pereira was the highest goal scorer of the season with 10 goals while Mumbai's goalkeeper Amrinder Singh won the Golden Glove for five clean sheets throughout the season. Former Chelsea player Florent Malouda, who plays for Delhi, was named 'Hero of the League'.
The season had witnessed three hat-tricks by Diego Forlan, Dudu Omagbemi and Marcelinho.
For the third year in a row, Kochi recorded the highest cumulative season attendance of around 4.4 lakh.
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