Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have always plied their trade at the top tier of Indian football since the National Football League (NFL) was established back in 1996.
But with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) all set to grant the winners of the Indian Super League (ISL) a slot in Asian Football Confederations (AFC) Champions League preliminary qualifiers from the next season, the two legacy clubs will not be a part of the national first division for the first time since the inception of a structured domestic league in India.
Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have won the NFL thrice each and since the competition was renamed to I-League in 2007. The former has won it once in 2014 whereas, the Red and Golds are yet to get their hands on the coveted silverware.
Until now, the champions of the I-League would get a slot in the qualifiers of the AFC Champions League and an automatic slot in the AFC Cup in case they lose their qualifying game. The ISL winners, since 2017-18 season, have been getting a slot in the AFC Cup play-offs.
It remains to be seen if Mohun Bagan and East Bengal eventually decided to join the ISL, now that they are officially not in India's top division.
As many as six I-League clubs have threatened that they would drag the AIFF to court if they decided to elevate ISL from its currents status.
"ISL is likely to get the AFC Champions League slot from the upcoming season. We will sit with all the stakeholders of Indian football soon and try to find a way out amicably. This would a stop-gap solution for the next two seasons,” a senior AIFF official told Goal.
This decision will be officially announced after the executive committee meeting of AIFF on 9 July 2019.