A unified league is not in the offing but the All India Football Federation (AIFF) remains open to I-League clubs, most notably Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, playing the 2019-20 Indian Super League as part of a proposed restructuring, PTI reported.

“Provided they (I-League clubs) fulfill the ISL criteria, it is possible as part of restructuring,” AIFF general secretary Kushal Das said on Wednesday. Fulfilling franchisee fee of Rs 15 crore is one of the criteria.

While the AIFF has been looking to merge the two domestic leagues, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed. The arrival of Quess as sponsors has given East Bengal financial boost while Mohun Bagan are in talks with ATK to collaborate.

“Talks are in advanced stages between Mohun Bagan and ATK,” a source monitoring the development said.

National team coach Stephen Constantine’s contract runs till January 19, 2019 and Das said the performance of the national team in the AFC Asian Cup and the coach’s wish will be taken into account when the time comes for renewal.

With plenty of optimism after an impressive run, the Indian team is leaving Thursday to play Oman in an international friendly on December 27, entering the final phase of preparation for the Asian Cup. The continental showpiece will be held in the UAE from January 5 to February 1. The team is likely to play a club side based in the Gulf on December 30.

Ahead of the team’s participation in the Asian Cup, AIFF president Praful Patel termed the country’s fourth participation in the AFC tournament a “precursor to India’s goal to achieve a berth in the FIFA World Cup by 2026.”

“The Asian dream needs to be achieved by 2026 as there will be eight teams from Asia in the FIFA World Cup,” Patel said at a press conference after a kit launch of the team. “You just always cannot live a dream and we have to make the Asian dream a reality. And with the form the national team is in, and if Sunil Chhetri and everybody can pull their feet together, we can make it a reality,” he added.

The Indian team had earlier participated in the Asian Cup in 1964, 1984 and 2011 editions. “We should always go for the maximum and we should try to win the tournament, let alone get out of the group stages,” Patel stated.

“We are mentally and physically prepared. We wish the team all the very best and they have the full support of the AIFF.”

“The whole nation should support the national team and should fully get behind them. It is imperative that the nation roots for them and as the tournament is in UAE, I hope we will get a lot of support there.”