AFC Asian Cup 2019: Which country's league runs the longest?

As compared to the other countries going to the UAE in January 2019, India's ISL and I-League runs for the shortest duration...

The Indian domestic club football structure is the shortest out of all the 24 nations participating in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in UAE.

An exception or rather an anomaly, India has two leagues that run parallelly - the I-League and the Indian Super League (ISL). The ISL is a ten-team affair, making it an 18-games-a-season contest. Further, a team can play two more play-off games if they make it and potentially a final.

The I-League is slightly longer, given that it has eleven teams which guarantee a team 20 matches a season. However, almost all the national team players come from the ISL, therefore it would be pointless to include the I-League in the larger scale of comparisons.


Although, two seasons ago, Indian players did go on to breach that 25-games a season mark when the two leagues were held separately - the ISL would end before the Christmas period and the I-League would begin after the new year. Players could criss-cross leagues on either side of the January transfer window, ensuring Indian players were playing for two clubs in one season.
With that tradition coming to an end, it makes for interesting reading how the current Indian domestic setup is years behind the other top teams from Asia. 

Tied with India at bottom-place is Bahrain's league that follows the exact pattern of the regular season of the ISL, sans the playoffs. However, the top team Bahrain are set to play in the Saudi Pro League from the 2019-20 season. Even current Asian Cup holders Australia's A-League has only 10 teams but they play each other thrice.

A-League 2018 Grand Final

Rather, countries like Kyrgyzstan, Philippines and Turkmenistan have lesser than ten sides in their top league but all three leagues ensure at least 25 games per season.

On the other hand, we have regional powerhouses South Korea, despite having only 12 teams - two more than the ISL, have the longest league with 38 games, following the Scottish Premier League's spilt table system.

However, there are two peculiar cases. North Korea have just ended their 2017-18 season, which stretched for almost eleven months. Yemen has seen no domestic football since the 2014-15 season due to a civil war.

While most countries follow the Fall-Spring calendar, Far Eastern, South-East Asian and Central Asian countries prefer the Spring-Autumn calendar with their seasons ending before the winter.

The ISL breaks for the Asian Cup on 17 December and resumes in January and so does many other leagues across the continent. Leagues which follow the calendar year pattern took a summer break for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Below is a list of the leagues:


Country League Teams Games Season Duration
UAE Arabian Gulf League 14 26 2018-19 30 August - 15 May
Thailand Thai League 1 18 34 2018 9 February - 7 October
India Indian Super League 10 18 2018-19 29 September - 17 March
Bahrain Bahrainian Premier League 10 18 2018-19 16 September - April


Country League Teams Games Season Duration
Australia A-League 10 27 2018-19 19 October - 19 May
Syria Syrian Premier League 14 26 2018-19 21 September - May
Palestine West Bank Premier League 12 22 2018-19 30 August - May
Jordan Jordanian Pro League 12 22 2018-19 24 August - 9 May


Country League Teams Games Season Duration
South Korea K League 1 12 38 2018 2 March - 2 December
China  Chinese Super League 16 30 2018 2 March - 11 November
Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyz Top Liga 8 28 2018 7 April - 6 November
Philippines Philippines Football League 6 25 2018 3 March - 25 August


Country League Teams Games Season Duration
Iran Persian Gulf Pro League 16 30 2018-19 26 July - May
Iraq Iraqi Premier League 20 38 2018-19 14 September - 8 June
Vietnam V.League 1 14 26 2018 10 March - 8 October
Yemen - - - - -


Country League Teams Games Season Duration
Saudi Arabia Saudi Professional League 16 30 2018-19 30 August - 2 May
Qatar Qatar Stars League 12 22 2018-19 4 August - April
Lebanon Lebanese Football League 12 22 2018-19 21 September - April
North Korea DPR Korea Premier League 13 24 2017-18 1 December - 28 October


Country League Teams Games Season Duration
Japan J1 League 18 34 2018 23 February - 1 December
Uzbekistan Uzbekistan Super League 12 32 2018 10 March - 30 November
Oman Oman Professional League 14 26 2018-19 17 August - April
Turkmenistan Yokary Liga 8 28 2018 3 March - 7 November

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