New Delhi: Its prize purse hiked from Rs 20 lakh to an impressive Rs 50 lakh, the 126th edition of Durand Cup football tournament, starting here from September 2, will see participation from top clubs like Mohammedan Sporting, Pune FC, Mumbai Tigers and Sikkim United, among others.
Defending champions Air India will also be part of the tournament, which is Asia`s oldest and the world`s third oldest.
This year the tournament will be conducted in two stages. Stage I will be qualifying round to be played on knockout basis and stage-II will be quarterfinal round to be played as a league cum knockout round.
While the qualifying round matches will start from September 2, real action will begin when the quarterfinals kick off on September 9, with the final slated to be held on 19th at the Ambedkar Stadium.
There will be a total of eight I-League teams competing in the event from the quarterfinals onward, and they will be joined by two qualifiers.
The quarterfinal league will see two groups consisting of six teams each.
Besides Mohammedan Sporting, Sikkim United, Pune FC, Mumbai Tigers and Air India, ONGC, Kolkata`s Bhawanipur FC and Kalighat are the two other clubs who will complete the seeded teams.
While the winners` prize money has been increased from Rs 10 to Rs 25 lakh, the finalist will be rewarded with Rs 15 lakh, an increase of Rs 10 lakh from last year`s tournament.
The two losing semi-finalists will be richer by Rs 5 lakh each.
In addition, a composite package has been provided for each participating team in quarterfinals of Rs 3.5 Lacs on account of travelling allowance, boarding and lodging.
The last-four teams qualifying for the semifinals will get additional Rs 1 lakh each.
The organisers also informed that they have exempted the entry fee of Rs 2000 from all participating clubs.
The tournament is being fully funded by Indian Army.
Pune FC and Army Red will kick start the quarterfinals. Army Red and Army Green will be representing the Services in the main tournament.
12 teams have been accommodated in the qualifying rounds. Two regimental teams from the Army, one team each from Indian Navy and Air Force, two teams from DSA, three teams from Para Military Forces i.E. BSF, CRPF and Assam Rifles. There is also one team from PSU -- TATA Football and one team Kerala Police.
The tournament was instituted in India in 1888 at Shimla by Sir Henry Mortimer Durand.