The return of top clubs like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan after a gap of four years will be the major attraction of the 122nd edition of the Durand Cup football tournament, starting at the Ambedkar Stadium here from September 2.

The qualifying round will feature 16 teams and the top two sides will make it to the quarterfinal league for which 10 other outfits have got direct entry.

The teams which have direct entry for the quarterfinal league are: Churchill Brothers, Mohun Bagan, Dempo, Sporting Clube de Goa, Mahindra United, East Bengal, JCT Phagwara, Air India, Shillong Lajong Club and Army XI.

Of these, apart from East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, Dempo had not participated in the tournament last year.

“These top clubs had other engagements and could not participate in the previous years. However, this year we made some adjustments in the dates to enable them play in the oldest tournament of Asia,” Brigadier Kuldeep Singh, the vice chairman of the tournament working committee, said at a press conference here on Friday.

In the quarterfinal league, starting from September 11, the 12 teams will be divided into four groups and the best side in each group will make it to the semifinals.

The final is scheduled for September 22. Some of the matches will be played under floodlights.

The tournament, which has roped in sponsors like the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL), State Bank of India and Cosco, offers total prize money of Rs. 11 lakh. The winner will take home Rs. 5 lakh while the runner-up will be richer by Rs. 3 lakh.

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