The All India Football Federation has released the fixture of the 66th Santosh Trophy Football Championship, which will take place at four venues (Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Sambalpur and Bargarh) in Odisha from May 11 to 27.
According to host Football Association of Odisha secretary Sanjay Behera, altogether 34 States and government institutions will fight for the title, which was donated by late Maharaja Sir Manmatha Nath Roy Chowdhary of Santosh (now in Bangladesh) and the then president of Indian Football Association (IFA).
Among the teams, 25 teams will play knock-out rounds (pre-quarterfinals) after being divided into seven clusters. The top team from each cluster will qualify for the quarterfinals, which will also involve nine seeded teams, including 31-time champions Bengal and host Odisha. The 16 teams in the quarterfinals will play league matches after being divided into four groups and the top team from each group will advance to the semifinals.
The championship will feature a total of 60 matches. Odisha, which last hosted the Santosh Trophy in 1994, has been placed in Group C along with Services, Chhattisgarh and winners of Clubster-VII.
Host Odisha will play their first quarterfinal league match against Chhattisgarh on May 18 at Cuttack and the remaining two against Cluster-VII winners and Services on May 20 and 22 respectively at the same venue.
GROUPINGS: Pre-quarterfinal Round: Cluster-I: Jharkhand, Delhi, Andaman, Gujarat.
Cluster-II: Kerala, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh.
Cluster-III: Chandigarh, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Pondicherry.
Cluster-IV: Jammu & Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Maharashtra.
Cluster-V: Karnataka, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Nagaland.
Cluster-VI: Uttarakhand, Mizoram, Rajasthan.
Cluster-VII: Haryana, Sikkim, Assam, Daman & Diu.
Group-A: Bengal, Punjab, winners of Cluster-II and Cluster-IV.
Group-B: Manipur, Goa, winners of Cluster-III and Cluster-V.
Group-C: Services, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and winners of Cluster-VII.
Group-D: Railways, Tamil Nadu, winners of Cluster-I and Cluster-VI.