Friday Jan 27, 2023

What is the Indian Super League?

What is the Indian Super League?

The Indian Super League, commonly abbreviated as ISL, is one of two top-tier professional leagues in the Indian football system. The only other men’s professional football league is the I League. The ISL Indian Super League is organised by the All-India Football Federation (AIFF) and the Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL). After tying up a sponsorship deal with Hero MotoCorp, it is now commercially known as the Hero Indian Super League.

The India Super League presently has 11 football clubs, and the tourney runs from November until the championship round, which is around March. The ISL Super League follows the standard football league format wherein clubs play each other in a double round-robin style. The regular season is referred to as the league stage and the team with the most goals at the end of the league stage is proclaimed the Premiers and the winner of the League Winners Shield. Even though the championship is the most coveted award for football clubs, the League Winners Shield also has its equivalent prestige. Professional soccer clubs take a lot of pride in winning the League Winners Shield in the ISL league.

The top four football clubs at the end of the league stage head into the playoffs. The top seed faces the 4th seed club while the 2nd and 3rd seeded teams battle each other. The winners of both playoff matches face each other in the ISL Final. The winner of the ISL Final is declared the champion for that year and the winner of the highly-coveted ISL Trophy. The champions are automatic participants of the AFC Cup playoffs, while other league winners qualify for the AFC Champions League. Since the league started in 2013, there have been a total of four football clubs that have won the ISL Trophy: ATK, Chennaiyn, Bengaluru, and Mumbai City. ATK has the most ISL trophies winning it three times.

Origin of the Indian Super League

Football has always been a popular sport in India, and a lot of Indians are passionate about this sport. Indians always had their brand of football in the early 19th century until they succumbed to international rules, which is what they follow up to this day. They have fallen in love with the game ever since. Despite their early history with football, it was not until 1996 that India had their first taste of a semi-professional football league due to the assembly of the National Football League. Before the National Football League, Indian soccer players were limited to state leagues and random nationwide tournaments.

In 2006, the All India Football Federation pushed the National Football League to professional status and reformatted it into the I League. However, the league still struggled in its formative years due to poor marketing. They could not rake in popularity ratings, and most Indians remain unaware of their professional existence. In 2013, the AIFF and IMG-Reliance and Star Sports officially launched the Indian Super League, which garnered much-needed attention and interest from passionate Indian football fans.

The Competition Format

As mentioned above, the regular Indian Super League runs from October up to March (sometimes late February, depending on the season schedule). The league stage consists of 22 rounds due to the double round-robin format. Each football club faces other teams twice during the league stage: one at their home stadium and the other one as a visiting team. 

Instead of the usual team standings, the Indian Super League follows a point system to rank teams during the league stage. A team victory is awarded 3 points while a draw is scored 1 point for both teams. A loss, however, does not accumulate any points. The team with the most points at the end of the league stage wins the League Winners Shield and is crowned as the ISL Premiers. The ISL Premier was only introduced during the 2019-2020 season, and there are only two winners of it so far in Goa and Mumbai City.

At the end of the league stage, the top 4 teams advance to the playoffs. Their seedings are based on their points during the league stage. In case of a tie, the tie-breaker rules are;

  • The highest number of points accumulated in games between the teams concerned;
  • Highest goal difference in games between the teams concerned;
  • The highest number of goals scored in games between the teams concerned;
  • Highest goal difference
  • The highest number of goals scored
  • The lowest number of red cards accumulated;
  • The lowest number of yellow cards collected;
  • Coin toss


To this day, the Indian Super League remains the most prestigious professional soccer league in India. It enjoys heavy media coverage, and sponsorships from different commercial outlets and businesses continue to pile up for the league. The football clubs also have endorsement deals to promote enterprises for their benefit. The Indian Super League is here to stay as the highest level of professional soccer league in India for more years to come. You may check out all the latest football betting odds at J9.


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