China football league starts in mid-July

The start of the Chinese Super League 2020 football season is news that should be hailed by all football fans around the world. Rumors that the long delayed season will start at mid-July is rather symbolic, as the ball will start rolling in the country that all the COVID-19 pandemic story has begun in late January.

Huang Shenghua, CEO of CSL Side Guangzhou R&F (one of the most prolific clubs in the country) revealed that all 16 sides are in talks about starting over, but still waiting for the confirmation from the Chinese Football Association, the governing body of the game in vast Chinese territory.

The season was to start on February 22nd, but was postponed until further notice due to COVID-19 outbreak. Until now the only teams that saw some action in early March were those competing in the AFC Champions League group phase.

The season structure has to change, though. Due to limited time and travel restrictions that still exist in China, teams would not be able to face one another in a classic home-away 30-round championship. Instead, two groups of eight teams will be formed on a geographical basis and will gather in one city to hold all 7 games of their group.

Proposed cities to hold these groups are Suzhou in east China and Dalian in the northeastern part of the country. Dalian Pro (name changed some months ago from Dalian Yifang) will be the only team enjoying playing at home, as Suzhou is not a home city for any Chinese Super League team.

The teams playing in Suzhou will be Beijing Guoan, Chongqing Lifan, Hebei China Fortune, Qingdao Huanghai, Shanghai SIPG, Shijiazhuang Ever Bright, Tianjin TEDA and Wuhan Zall. The other group consist of Dalian Pro, Guangzhou Evergrande, Guangzhou R&F, Henan Jianye, Jiangsu Suning, Shangdong Luneng, Shanghai Shenghua and Shenzhen FC.

After the “regular season” consisting of 7 games, the teams will play a cup-like schedule. First four teams of each group will phase one another in quarter final and semifinal stage in two-leg matches. The winners will confront to the final, where the championship title will be awarded. The same will happen to the four bottom teams, there will be also quarter final and semi-final stage. The classification round, where the final table will be formed, is also going to be played in two-leg matches.

Last two teams will be relegated to Chinese League One. The top four teams will represent the country in next year’s AFC Champions League, as for the time being there is no schedule for a cup competition this year.

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