The Durand Cup is a competition that is special for more reasons than one. It is the oldest football tournament in Asia and the third oldest in the world.

It gets India on the footballing map for the heritage it has and has always provided Indian football with memorable moments and some stunning players.

The 131st edition of the Durand Cup will be played across three cities – Kolkata, Guwahati and Imphal – from August 16 to September 18.

A total of 20 teams will vie for the title as the tournament will be played in a group and knockout format.

As we approach kick-off in the Durand Cup which is the curtain raiser for the new longer football calendar in Indian football, here are five things you must watch out for in Durand Cup 2022.

All eleven Hero ISL teams to feature

In a first, all eleven Hero Indian Super League (ISL) teams will participate in the Durand Cup which is set to be the perfect preparation for the upcoming Hero ISL season for these teams.

Apart from getting ready for the big season ahead, the Durand Cup will be the first silverware on offer for the Hero ISL teams who can get that early taste of winning before heading into the new season.

With all Hero ISL teams in the fray, expect some tasty encounters on the horizon. For Hero ISL fans who have been waiting to see their teams in action, the Durand Cup couldn’t come sooner.

Durand Cup 2022, Group A preview: Defending champions FC Goa locked in a tough pool with Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC

Fans to return to the stadium

After playing two seasons behind closed doors, Hero ISL teams will get to see fans back in the stadium for the Durand Cup. The Hero ISL final saw fans return to the stadium in some proportion but at the Durand Cup, fans can flock to the venue to support their favourite teams without restriction on the number.

ATK Mohun Bagan, Red and Golds and NorthEast United FC are the Hero ISL teams that will enjoy home advantage in the Durand Cup and their fans will finally be able to see their team in flesh.

The people in the stands will thus add a completely new dimension to this tournament and the players would be looking forward to witnessing a fabulous atmosphere during the matches.

Durand Cup 2022, Group B preview: Kolkata giants face challenge from revitalised Mumbai City FC

New signings on show

The Durand Cup will also give the fans a chance to see some of the major new signings in action for the first time in their club colours. The likes of Roy Krishna and Sandesh Jhingan could make their Bengaluru FC debuts in this competition. ATK Mohun Bagan who have also made a host of new signings that includes Florentin Pogba, Brendan Hamill, Dimitri Petratos, Asish Rai and Ashique Kuruniyan and can be expected to get them out on the pitch during this tournament.

Similarly, Odisha FC, Mumbai City FC and Chennaiyin FC who have made a number of eye-catching acquisitions could test their new recruits in the Durand Cup.

Excited to see Greg Stewart in blue of Mumbai City FC or watch Diego Mauricio back with Odisha FC? Don’t miss the Durand Cup.

Durand Cup 2022, Group C preview: Hyderabad FC and Chennaiyin FC face a tricky test in Imphal

A glimpse of new playing styles

Five Hero ISL teams – Bengaluru FC, Red and Golds, Chennaiyin FC, NorthEast United FC and Odisha FC will head into the Durand Cup with new head coaches.

The Durand Cup will be the perfect opportunity for these new gaffers to test their players, execute their game plans and even experiment a bit with their tactics.

For fans who are eagerly waiting to see their teams under the new regime, the Durand Cup will provide a glimpse of what these teams will look like in the Hero ISL in terms of the playing XI and style of play.

In Simon Grayson, Thomas Brdaric, Marco Balbul and Josep Gombau, there are coaches with varied tactical profiles which are set to make the Durand Cup very interesting. Also, keep an eye out on the coaches who will be leading their teams out in their second seasons. They could spring a surprise or two.

Durand Cup 2022, Group D preview: Kerala Blasters FC, NorthEast United FC and Odisha FC battle it out in Guwahati

A chance for young players

FC Goa, Jamshedpur FC and Kerala Blasters FC will be sending their reserve teams to the competition and using the tournament to test younger players. Last year, FC Goa managed to find gems like Muhammed Nemil in the Durand Cup and they will be hoping to do the same this year as well as they field a Deggie Cardozo-led team.

Youth was a big part of Jamshedpur FC’s League Winners’ Shield-winning team last season and new head coach Aidy Boothroyd will keep an eye on the team led by Noel Wilson in the Durand Cup.

As for the Blasters, Ivan Vukomanovic has never shied away from picking a youngster in his teams and the Kerala Blasters FC reserve team that recently played in the Next Gen Cup will come into the Durand Cup with a lot of positivity.

As always, Indian football fans will have their eyes on younger players who could possibly be the future of Indian football.