The 65th edition of the National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy will be held across Assam from May 6 to 30. Record champions West Bengal are the defending champions, who had won last years title at home against Punjab.
A total of 35 teams will be taking part in the championships this year. Last year's semifinals - West Bengal, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Goa - have been given a bye into the Quarterfinal League stage, while the other 31 sides would have to play the preliminary round cluster stage with only the top team moving on.
The Cluster round matches would be played from May 6 to 16 with the quarterfinal round games scheduled from May 17 to 24. The semifinals would be played on May 26/27, while the final has been slated for May 30.
The preliminary round clusters would be played across as the state as Assam FA secretary Ankur Datta had told me about a month back. The AFA plan was to use the Santosh Trophy to spread football awareness across the state and also allow football fans across the state watch the Santosh Trophy.
Cluster I and V matches would be played in Guwahati, Cluster II in Mangaldoi, Cluster III in Shiv Sagar, Cluster IV in Tinsukia, while Cluster VI in Nagaon, VIII in Bongaigaon and VIII in Kokrajhar.
With the I-League and the final round of the 2nd Division I-League running at the time of the Santosh Trophy no top level players will be seen in action, which could give the chance for new talent to showcase themselves.
Preliminary Round Clusters
Cluster 1: Assam, Pondicherry, Rajasthan
Cluster 2: Chhattisgarh, Daman&Diu, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh
Cluster 3: Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Andaman&Nicobar
Cluster 4: Kerala, Jammu&Kashmir, Jharkhand, Chandigarh
Cluster 5: Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Services, Arunachal Pradesh
Cluster 6: Delhi, Nagaland, Orissa, Himachal Pradesh
Cluster 7: Mizoram, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Tripura
Cluster 8: Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Railways, Sikkim