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What are the differences between the Oman, Qatar and Indian football leagues?

11:36 AM SGT 2/9/19
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Goal finds out how different are the Indian Super League and the I-League as compared to the Stars League and Pro League...
Indian national team head coach Igor Stimac labeled the duration of the domestic league as one of his "biggest headaches", but do India's upcoming opponents in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Oman and Qatar have the same issue?

The 'short' duration of leagues and the 'long' length of the off-season in the Indian domestic club football structure has even the national team head coach in sweats.

But, are there parallels to be drawn or things to learn for the Indian Super League (ISL) and the I-League from the Oman Professional League and the Qatar Stars League?

Goal finds out...


The Indian Super League (ISL), which runs parallel with the I-League is deemed-to-be the top-tier league in India. From the 2019-20 season onwards, the team which finishes top of the ISL league phase will get the AFC Champions League qualifying berth.

In the current Indian squad, all players hail from clubs in the ISL. The ISL was founded as an eight-team league in 2014. 2017-18 onwards, It expanded to ten teams. Apart from the league stage, top four teams qualify to play in the ISL playoffs, determining the winners.

The 2019-20 season of the ISL is yet to start. It commences on 20 October 2019 and the league stage runs till 23 February 2020.

ISL Factfile

Teams: 10
Matches per club: 18 (excluding playoffs)
Duration of 2018-19 regular season: 29 September 2018 - 3 March 2019
Break for the 2019 Asian Cup: 17 December 2018 - 24 January 2019
Duration of 2018-19 playoffs: 7 March 2019 - 17 March 2019
Foreign players quota: Maximum of 5 on the field, maximum of 7 in the squad and a minimum of 6

The 2019-20 I-League champions are set to be rewarded with the AFC Cup play-off spot. It is set to start on November 2nd.

I-League Factfile

Teams: 11
Matches per club: 20
Duration of 2018-19 season: 26 October 2018 - 8 March 2019 (No break for 2019 Asian Cup)
Foreign players quota: Maximum of 5 on the field, maximum of 6 in the squad


The Oman Professional League (OPL) was founded in 1976 but became fully professional only since the 2013-14 season. Current champions Dhofar are also record eleven-time winners. Fourteen teams contest the league.

Despite a majority of players in the national team squad being attached to clubs in the OPL, the 2019-20 season is only going to start on 14 September 2019, right after the upcoming international window.

Winners of the OPL get one automatic group stage and one playoff spot in the AFC Cup. The Omani league is ranked 28th in Asia as compared to India in 14th place.

OPL Factfile

Teams: 14
Matches per club: 26
Duration of 2018-19 regular season: 17 August 2018 - 28 May 2019
Break for the 2019 Asian Cup: 25 November 2018 - 6 February 2019
Foreign players quota: Maximum of 4 (3+1 rule)


The Qatar Stars League (QSL) started in 1963 but has boomed lately and has attracted big names. Xavi, Wesley Sneijder and now Medhi Benatia have plied their trade in Qatar.

The QSL is ranked as the second-best league in Asia by the AFC. The 12-team league get two automatic group stage and two playoff spots in the ACL. While QSL follows the 3+1 foreigner rule much most of Asia, an additional fifth foreigner is allowed on the pitch only if the player originates from a Union of Arab Football Associations (UAFA) member nation.

The 2019-20 is already underway with two weekends of football done and dusted heading into the international window. 

QSL Factfile

Teams: 12
Matches per club: 22
Duration of 2018-19 regular season: 4 August 2018 - 13 April 2019
Break for the 2019 Asian Cup: 12 December 2018 - 13 February 2019
Foreign players quota: Maximum of 5 (3+1+1 rule)