As the start of the season draws closer Khel Now takes a look at the new clubs set to take part in the league this season and some others returning to the fold.

Now that the I-League has wrapped up, the 2nd division is upon us and it seems to be a really interesting one because of so many new and unique teams being introduced in the league. There have been many Indian Super League clubs who are making their reserve teams participate in it, while the fans will also get a glimpse at making new clubs from around India trying to get into India’s top division.

There are new and old clubs participating in the 2nd Division and will be separated into three groups in a round-robin format which will later turn into a single-leg league format. So let us have a look at some of the clubs from the I-League 2nd division which you should get to know more about.

Madhya Bharat SC

Madhya Bharat Sports Club are a relatively new club which only formed last year and is one to make its way from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. The newcomers into the I-League 2nd division have been pretty impressive with their vision and actually sealed a tie-up with European club Celtic in their International Partnership Program which will see the Scottish club help the club with their development in football.

Madhya Bharat SC have sealed a deal with Celtic FC for youth development

This deal will also see Celtic provide some substantial coach education program to Madhya Bharat which will help to develop their young footballers in their academy. Madhya Bharat also seem to be quite ambitious heading into the campaign as they have a relatively young but vibrant squad who made a great impression in their pre-season outing. They won both their matches comprehensively with their new signings, Jason Lucas and Sanju Thapa being important for the side.

Madhya Bharat are a club who are have been founded and owned by Rishish Dubey who is also the CEO of Live Fit Sports Technology Private Limited, which is an organization which is looking to enhance the development of football in the country. The organization helps to the improving the technical aspects of football, as well as helping for the development of football schools as well as the fitness programs. Dubey has invested quite a lot in this new side who might not be known by many, but will definitely look to make their mark in the league this season.

 With Madhya Pradesh in need of a proper footballing side, Madhya Bharat SC will look to provide that and help the development of football in the state. They are in quite a tough group with some difficult oppositions, but Madhya Bharat are an unpredictable side mostly due to how new they are. The club is filled with some vibrant young talents who can make things very difficult for the other sides and pop up with some surprises in this season.

Langsning FC

Langsning FC are a side who has a lot of experience playing in the I-League 2nd division as they have competed in it for quite the number of years and look to break the jinx and get promoted to the elite league this season. The Shillong-based club were founded in 1974 and have been playing in the local tournaments since then. It is a Khasi football club and its name was actually taken from a locality in Shillong and most of the players in the squad are from that locality or its neighbours.

Watch: Langsning FC is a well-known club in Shillong

They are a side who actually have quite the rich history as Langsning might not have won the I-League 2nd division, but have been a formidable team in the Shillong Premier League. The side won the Shillong Premier League for the fifth time in its history last year and look to have built up a very good squad at that as well. Despite never having actually won the 2nd division, they have competed in it thrice in their history and had their most prolific season in 2013 when they finished fourth in the league table.

After a gap of almost five years, the Shillong-based club returns to the I-League 2nd division and have been placed in a very difficult group in particular. They have to face up against the reserves teams of Bengaluru FC, Jamshedpur FC, Chennaiyin FC as well as Kolkata giants Mohammedan Sporting Club. Despite the tough oppositions, the defending SPL champions will be looking to make their mark and progress to the next stage of the competition by causing some upsets.

They have a confident and vibrant squad, with captain Brolington Warlarpih, who is a local talent, being a key player for the side. The club also announced their two foreigners signed for the tournament in Ivorian Lancine Toure and Kento Sakurai of Japan. The two have spoken about their excitement of playing in the league and seem to have gelled well with the squad so far in the past few months, as this exciting team will look to play attractive football and take the game to their difficult oppositions in the next couple of months.

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TRAU FC (also known as Tiddim Road Athletic Union Football Club) are the latest side from Imphal who are looking to make strides in the I-League 2nd Division as the Manipuri club look ready to impress this season. TRAU FC were formed way back in 1958 and have been a big club in the state of Manipur ever since. They have lifted the Manipur State Championship five times and came up as runners-up nine times in their history, with their biggest achievement so far being them ending up as runners-up of the Bordoloi Trophy in 1998.

The Imphal-based side is the oldest side among the four 

While Neroca were the side to win the I-League 2nd division last season, TRAU will look to maintain that good record for Manipuri side by going all guns blazing this season. They seem to be a focused unit who have had a good pre-season and even defeated Manipur Santosh Trophy XI 3-1 a week back. The team have signed 10 players from the state of Manipur including three defenders, four midfielders and a striker. They are a team who are very focused on winning the league this season and have signed Nigerian striker Prince and are close to signing French defender Christoppe Jonnette.

While TRAU FC have already been a big team in the local Manipur tournaments, they will have to show how good they are in the big stage of the I-League 2nd division where they have been placed in a rather difficult group. With so many games against ISL reserve teams, the side will look to do proud the footballing name of Manipur and bring the people from the state even more joy with their performance. They are lead by coach Nandakumar Singh who has done a decent job with the boys so far.

TRAU FC also have a lot of experience in their squad thanks to veterans like Tomba Singh and Reisangmei Vashum. Tomba Singh has been playing at the top of Indian Football for almost two decades now and has played for clubs like Salgaocar FC, Churchill Brothers in the past and was part of their title-winning side in the 2012-13 season. He has also made 12 appearances for the Indian National team. Vashum will mostly be remembered for his stint at East Bengal from 2010-14 and the midfielder made 32 appearances for the club. He also played a season under Khalid Jamil at Mumbai FC and will look to be a crucial part for TRAU, who will need these two experience candidates to influence their squad this season.

FC Kerala:

Kerala has seen itself be established into the footballing map of India in the past few years thanks to Kerala Blasters success and Gokulam Kerala doing well in their inaugural season in the I-League as well. That has encouraged even more clubs to come up through the ranks as we’re not only going to see Kerala Blasters reserves side take the field in the I-League 2nd division this season, but also newcomers FC Kerala in it. The newly formed side from Thrissur have big ambitions and will look to be the surprise packages of the season in the 2nd Division.

FC Kerala aims to develop youth talents in their ranks

FC Kerala term themselves to be a club which looks to build itself as it goes on and help with the development of football in their state. They list their objectives as wanting to qualify for the I-League in the four years and the ISL in the next six years, proving how the ambitions of this newly formed club is quite high. They also are aiming to get some top-notch facilities for their players and coaching staff and that can help a lot if they impress in the 2nd Division this season.

Despite being a rather small fish in the pond in this highly competitive league, FC Kerala will look to play some attractive football and most of their squad comprises of local talent. Apart from that, FC Kerala also have an impressive youth system and their youth squads have won many local tournaments in Kerala so far. They will hope that their senior squad can repeat that and play their best against these difficult oppositions and they will have the full support of their fans in Thrissur in all their matches.

Kerala might’ve been placed in a difficult group which comprises of reserves squads of FC Goa and Kerala Blasters, but they will look to use their unpredictability to their advantage and surprise all these teams and reap up some important points. FC Kerala are free from any expectation and can play without pressure in the matches, which makes them a really dangerous side for anyone to face.