In 2009, Shillong Lajong became the first ever club from North-East to participate in I-League, the top flight football league in India. From the next year onwards the Shillong Sports Association (SSA) would organise the Shillong Premier League (SPL) the flagship league cum knock-out tournament in Meghalaya.
The four football giants of Meghalaya - Shillong Lajong FC, Royal Wahingdoh FC, Rangdajied United FC, and Langsning FC - ply their trade in this league.
History of SPL
The first season of the SPL kicked-off in 2010.
An instant hit among the masses, the first edition of the MPL saw packed houses at the Polo Grounds in Shillong. It was a full house everytime clubs like Langsning, Lajong, Rangdajied, Wahingdoh, or Meghalaya Police FC took to the pitch.
Royal Wahingdoh became champions for the first three editions from 2010-2012. Rangdajied broke their winning streak in 2013 when they won their solitary SPL title. From 2014-2016, Shillong Lajong went on to win three successive titles.
Langsning are the reigning champions.
Format & Venue
Eight teams play each other twice in dual round-robin league system.
After 14 rounds, the top four teams progress to the semi-finals. The semi-finals are played between the first-placed and second-placed team, which is known as the qualifier. The winner books its slot directly into the final. The loser willl get another crack for the remaining final spot where it will play against the winner of the third and fourth placed team, similar to the Inidan Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament.
All the matches are played at the Polo Ground in Shillong. The bottom two teams are relegated to the First Division League.
In the first division district league, ten teams participate. It is a single leg league where each team faces each other only once. The top two teams gain direct promotion to the SPL. Whereas, the bottom two gets relegated to second division.
The Second Division consists of 14 teams where they are divided into two groups. The top two from each cluster go on to play at the knock-out stage. The bottom placed team from both groups gets relegated to third division.
In the third division there are around 28-30 teams. They are further divided into four to five groups. The SSA have decided that from 2019, they are going to limit the participation in the third division to 16 teams and the rest will go on to form the fourth division.
"The fourth division will be an U-20 League. No clubs will be allowed to register any players above the age of 20. This is a firm decision that SSA has taken and we will stick to it. We had three clubs participating in I-League which has come down to one. We want to change this. So we are focussing more on youth leagues. It is already mandatory for the premier division clubs to maintain a U-18 team so that youth development is not hampered," says Bah Bor Diengdoh, president of the Meghalaya Football Association.