The Indian Super League's 2021-22 season will witness an increase in local players' on-field participation thanks to a new set of guidelines that mandates clubs to field a minimum of seven footballers at one time from the previous six. A rise in the number of Indian players means one spot less for foreign stars which will now be capped at four.
"Hero Indian Super League 2021-22 season will witness an increase in number of Indian players in the playing XI, as the new Coach & Player Selection Guidelines of Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) now mandates clubs to have a minimum of seven (7) Indian players on the field at any point of time," the ISL said in a release on Tuesday.
The inaugural edition in 2014 had witnessed a playing composition of six foreigners and five Indian players.
Over the years, the league has gradually increased the spots for Indian players, with ISL 2017-18 having a minimum six Indian players on the field, which now has been further increased to seven for the next season.
"The latest changes in player guidelines are incorporated with the League's philosophy of bringing constant improvement to India's premier football event," it said in the release.
The cap on foreign players to a maximum four is in accordance with the Asian Football Confederation's club competitions' regulations.
With the changes, clubs can sign a maximum of six foreign players of which one is required to be from an AFC member nation.
A club also has an option to sign a foreign marquee player within the League-approved classifications. Starting this season, FSDL (Football Sports Development Limited, which runs the league) will mandate clubs to increase their development player signing from minimum two to four, while continuing to have two of such development players be part of the match-day squad.
"The league witnessed a significant improvement in the performance of developmental players last season with the likes of Akash Mishra, Apuia, Jeakson Singh, Rahul KP, Asish Rai, etc. delivering breakthrough performances underlining the testament to the growth of young footballers in India."
A club can have a maximum squad strength of 35 players, with three registered goalkeepers. A club can also have an injury replacement for an Indian player (outside of the maximum 35 registered players).
The squad salary cap remains at Rs 16.5 crore for the upcoming season. Indian football's transfer window will open from Wednesday, giving the clubs a chance to aggressively chase the players of their choices.