Teams in the cash-rich Chinese Super League will only be able to name three of their foreign stars in starting XIs this season after the Chinese Football Association confirmed an amendment to its competition rules – prompted in part by "recent irrational club investment for domestic and international player transfer fees".
In line with multiple reports that emerged on Sunday , CSL teams will be allowed to select five overseas players in their matchday squad of 18 but cannot have more than three on the field at any given time from the 2017 season onwards.
Following a meeting of the CFA's Professional League Council for the Super League, held in Wuhan on Sunday with representatives from the participating clubs present, the association said it was focused on providing a domestic competition that was, "conducive to the development of Chinese football and the training of Chinese players, which is conducive to the improvement of the national team and the healthy, stable and sustainable development of [the] professional league".
The organisation also stated it would, "introduce a series of measures and initiatives to regulate the operation and management of the clubs" in light of the recent spending, while pledging to punish illegal activities among its members.
A CFA statement added: "The Chinese Football Association will be through the club's youth training bases and other aspects… to crack down on yin and yang contracts, signature fees and other illegal activities.
"Third-party audits, the development of club financial standards and many other supporting works [will take place] to promote the clubs to achieve an independent and healthy operation and enhance their management and operational capabilities to ensure long-term stable development of the professional league, [and] for Chinese football to make a positive contribution."
Last season, CSL clubs operated under the "four plus one" quota, where five foreign players were allowed in the squad with one of those from another country within the Asian Football Confederation. The Asian player quota has been abolished under the new regulations.
Additionally, teams must now select a minimum of two Under-23 players in their matchday squads, with one in the starting XI.
The likes of Carlos Tevez, Oscar and Axel Witsel are among the latest star players to move to China in recent weeks, while reports of Chelsea striker Diego Costa falling out with head coach Antonio Conte came amid speculation over the Premier League leaders' top scorer being the subject of CSL interest.