Five months after the original season was due to begin, the Chinese Super League has confirmed that the 2020 campaign will get underway this month.
After a long process with the Chinese Football Association seeking an agreement with the General Administration of Sport, their last-ditch attempt at securing a 2020 footballing season has finally been agreed.
The season is now set to begin on Saturday 25th July, with the top tier clubs being split into two groups, with one located in Dalian and the other in Suzhou.
Group A, who will be based in Dalian, includes: Dalian Professional, Guangzhou Evergrande, Guangzhou R&F, Henan Jianye, Jiangsu Suning, Shandong Luneng, Shanghai Shenhua and Shenzhen.
Group B, who will be based in Suzhou, includes: Beijing Guo’an, Chongqing Lifan, Hebei China Fortune, Qingdao Huanghai, Shanghai SIPG, Shijiazhuang Ever Bright, Tianjin TEDA and Wuhan Zall.
The league campaign will be split into two stages: the group stage and the relegation/championship knockout stages.
This will mean that even if teams finish at the bottom of their respective groups, they will still have a chance to avoid relegation in a tournament style knockout stage.
A number of import players that have been stuck outside of China have recently returned to the country through special channels, though there are still a number that teams will need to organise ahead of the new season start.
According to Titan Sports Plus, teams will be allowed their respective host city from July 10th but must have all players and coaches arrive by July 21st for logistical reasons.
While no official date has been set for the starts of both China League One and League Two, a source close to the situation believes they will begin a couple of weeks later, around August 8th or 9th.
The return of competitive football in China was at risk with the CFA’s previous plans being rejected and small pockets of further Coronavirus outbreaks forcing them to choose cities that are not capitals of provinces due to their higher risk of transmission.
With a date firmly set, fans will be delighted to have football to look forward to, even if it will look significantly different to past years and competitions.
Relegation rules for the new season have not yet been confirmed, though there is a growing belief that relegations will be halted for this season, allowing two clubs from China League One to be promoted and a larger, 18-team top tier to operate in 2021.