New Delhi, Oct 16 (IANS) Premier India Football Academy (PIFA) Sports Club will host Pune FC at Bhiwandi, Maharashtra, in the opening match of the 2015-16 season of the U-18 I-league on October 18.
DSK Shivajians and Mumbai FC will lock their horns in the second tie of the league at the latter’s home ground in Pune. This year’s tournament will see 29 teams vie for top honours. The teams have been divided into five groups based on their geographical location and they would play against the other clubs in their respective groups on a home-and-away basis.
Mumbai FC, Kenkre FC and PIFA Sports Club are clubbed in the Maharashtra zone along with Pune based clubs DSK Shivajians and Pune FC. AIFF Elite Academy, winners of the U-19 I-League last season, are pitted against Goan clubs Salgaocar FC, Sporting Clube de Goa, Dempo Sports Club and Sports Authority of India (SAI).
Teams from SAI will compete in four different zones — Goa, Kolkata-Jamshedpur, Shillong-Guwahati and Rest of India. The Kolkata-Jamshedpur zone will feature six teams in the form of Mohun Bagan Athletic Club, East Bengal, Mohammedan Sporting, United SC, SAI- Kolkata and Tata Football Academy, who won the U-19 I-League in the 2013-14 season.
Guwahati FC, Shillong Lajong, Royal Wahingdoh, Rangdajied United FC and SAI-Guwahati would battle it out in the Shillong-Guwahati zone. The leftover clubs from the I-League and Second Division I-League are clustered in the ‘Rest of India’ group and they would be divided in two sub-groups. The clubs from North-East (Aizawl FC, Neroca FC, Gangtok Himalayan FC) will clash among themselves while Bangalore FC, Fateh Hyderabad FC, Minerva AFC and Lonestar Kashmir FC will form another subgroup within the ‘Rest of India’ zone.
Two teams from each zone will advance to the next stage where the 10 teams will be divided into two groups. Unlike the zonal rounds, this round will be played at a centralised venue in a round-robin format and the top two teams from each group will advance to the semi-finals. The U-18 I-League is the premier age-group football tournament of the country which has been structured keeping the AFC U-19 Championship in mind. This particular tournament is intented to lay the foundation stone of the India U-19 team who would rub shoulders with the premier teams of Asia.