The 67th Santosh Trophy National football championship kicks off in Lucknow and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh on February 1 and ends with the final in Kochi on March 3.
The championship’s qualifying phase has been divided into two rounds, with the stronger teams bunched in qualifying round I and the other teams in qualifying round II.
Two teams from each of the four qualifying round I groups will progress to the quarterfinal league while only one from each group will make the grade from qualifying round II.
Kerala will have two venues — Kollam and Kochi — but the latter will host the bulk of the matches, including the semifinals and the final.
Matches in Kollam begin on February 10 while the action kicks off in Kochi on February 13.
Defending champion Services, last year’s runner-up Tamil Nadu and the semifinalists, Kerala and Manipur, have been given a direct berth into the quarterfinal round.
Qualifying round II (one team from each group moves to quarterfinal league):
Cluster A (Kollam, from Feb. 13): Jharkhand, Gujarat, Chandigarh, Nagaland.
Cluster B (Kollam, from Feb. 10): Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Daman & Diu.
Cluster C (Lucknow/Varanasi, UP, from Feb. 2): Assam, Andaman & Nicobar, Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan.
Cluster D (Lucknow/Varanasi, from Feb. 1): Madhya Pradesh, Tripura, Puducherry, Uttarakhand, Sikkim.
Qualifying round I (two teams from each group qualify to quarterfinal league):
Group A (Kochi, from Feb. 13): West Bengal, Delhi, Railways.
Group B (Lucknow/Varanasi, from Feb. 11): Punjab, Meghalaya, Odisha.
Group C: (Lucknow/Varanasi, from Feb. 12): Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Mizoram.
Group D (Kochi, from Feb. 14): Goa, Chhattisgarh, Haryana.
Quarterfinal round (winner of each group enters semifinal):
Group A (Kochi, from Feb. 22): Services, Qualifying Group I (A-1), Qual. I (B-2)
Qual. II (winner of Cluster D).
Group B (Kollam, from Feb. 21): Tamil Nadu, Qual. I (D-1), Qual. I (C-2), Qual. II (Cluster A winner).
Group C (Kochi, from Feb. 21): Kerala, Qual. I (C-1), Qual. I (D-2), Qual. II (Cluster C winner).
Group D (Kollam, from Feb. 22): Manipur, Qual. I (B-1), Qual. I (A-2), Qual. II (Cluster B winner).
Semifinals (Kochi): Winner Group B v Winner Group C (Feb. 27); Winner Group A v Winner Group D (Feb. 28).
Final: March 3.