Indian Super League (ISL) clubs will have to register a fixed set of domestic players in the squad for the entire 2020-21 season.
According to the latest player recruitment guidelines, the clubs can register up to 30 domestic players and the roster cannot be changed except through player transfers during a transfer window.
This means that young players, who perform well for the youth or reserve teams, will not be allowed to be drafted into the first team once the season has kicked off. All clubs will now be expected to identify the young players with potential and set up their domestic player roster accordingly.
Last season, teams could replace players in their squad after every fifth game, ie after 5th, 10th and 15th matches. This allowed for teams to promote youngsters who are performing well in youth leagues into the first team.
For example, Brandon Williams of Manchester United was handed his chance in the first team after impressing in the youth set up midway through the season. In fact, in the Premier League, teams can use as many under-21 players as they like in addition to their main squad, regardless of nationality. They do not need to register these players in advance.
However, now in the ISL, this option has been taken away. Clubs will need to identify players who have potential and add them in advance to the main squad.
The only scenario in which a domestic player can be replaced (outside a transfer window) is if the player is a goalkeeper and he is injured for the remained of the season. ISL requires all clubs to have at least two match-fit (and a minimum of four) goalkeepers in their squad during the season.
There can be a maximum of 30 and a minimum of 18 Indian players in a squad next season. For comparison, clubs were only allowed to sign at most 18 Indian players in the fourth season of ISL.
There have been several minor changes in the guidelines for recruitment next season. In a welcome move to improve the chances for young Indian players in the league, ISL has altered its player guidelines to ensure that there must be two, and not one developmental player (born on or after January 1, 2000) in each club's 18-member matchday squads.
As reported earlier, the 2020-21 season of the ISL will see a mandatory Asian player in their squads. The clubs will be allowed to sign a minimum of five and a maximum of seven foreign players in a squad that can have as many as 35 players.