Kolkata: City football giants Mohun Bagan will take on Mohammedan Sporting in the opening fixture of the 129th edition of the Durand Cup on August 2 at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, as the iconic meet will see participation from both I-League and Indian Super League clubs alongwith military outfits.
The third oldest competition in the world will have sixteen teams -- five from ISL, six from I-League and one from I-League second division -- vying for the top honours.
The Indian Army will have two teams -- Army Red and Army Green -- with the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy also taking part. The final will be held on August 24.
ISL champions Bengaluru FC will open their account against Army Red on August 8 while I-League winners Chennai City FC will take on Real Kashmir on August 7. The tournament will be spread across three venues in Kolkata and two in Kalyani and Siliguri.
The semi-finals and final will be held at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on August 20 and 24 respectively. These matches are scheduled to be telecast live on Star Sports, the organisers said.
This will be for the first time that the tournament will be played outside New Delhi, its traditional venue.
"We wanted to rechristen the tournament and make it a pan India affair and bring it to Kolkata which is mecca of football. So to make it more attractive we took a gap of three seasons," said Lt Gen RP Kalita, AVSM, SM, VSM, Chief of Staff, HQ Eastern Command at the pre-tournament press meet.
Asked why former I-League champions Minerva Punjab were not a part, he said: "I spoke to owner Ranjit Bajaj. They were 10th in the I-League table. We were initially planning to get top six teams from the I-League.
"We initially contacted Kerala Blasters. When they said they were unavailable, we got in touch with Gokulam as we wanted a club from Kerala to come."
It is expected that the ISL teams will field their reserve squads.
"We spoke to the teams as well as with Praful Patel (All India Football Federation President). There are some issues with the transfer window. They assemble the team by August end or September. We couldn't further delay the tournament as it would have clashed with the Calcutta Football League. So we are happy that the teams are coming and the tournament will happen," Kalita said.
Three foreigners will be allowed in the playing XI with four in the squad.
The sixteen teams will be divided into four groups with the group winners qualifying for the semi-finals. The winners will bag prize money of Rs 40 lakh and the runners up will get richer by Rs 20 lakh. The losing semi-finalists will be awarded Rs 5 lakh each.