The new domestic Indian football season is set to begin on Thursday after a three-month break, with the Durand Cup taking center stage as the curtain-raiser for the upcoming season.

The prestigious Durand Cup holds an immense legacy, and it is the oldest football tournament in Asia and the third-oldest in the world. The 132nd edition of the tournament holds extra significance as it is going to be extensive with the participation of 24 teams, including foreign teams after an absence of 27 years.

The season, which promises to be longer and even more exciting, will get started on August 3, with reigning Indian Super League champions Mohun Bagan Super Giant squaring off against Bangladesh Army FT.

As the tournament creeps closer and closer, here are the five things you should look out for in the 2023 Durand Cup.

More Teams, More Excitement

In its 132nd edition, the tournament is undergoing a significant transformation, as a total of 24 teams will vie for the title over the span of one month, with the champions being crowned on September 3. The tournament will follow a group and knockout format, and the teams have been divided into six groups, each containing four teams.

The four group winners, along with the top two second-placed teams, will advance to the quarter-finals. The inclusion of armed forces teams from Bangladesh and Nepal adds a new layer of global diversity to this esteemed tournament.

The Durand Cup is poised to serve as an ideal prelude to the much-anticipated 10th season of the ISL. This forthcoming season will witness the participation of 12 teams in India's top-flight league, further elevating the excitement level among the football fraternity in India.

Manolo Marquez’s FC Goa

Manolo Marquez has made a name for himself during his three-year stint with Hyderabad FC. The Spaniard took a young and fairly inexperienced HFC side to the brink of the playoffs in his first season. Then, in his second season, he led them to their first-ever silverware when they lifted the ISL trophy by defeating Kerala Blasters FC in the 2021-22 ISL final.

FC Goa, who have slightly deviated from their usual consistent results over the past couple of seasons, are determined to recapture their former glory. They have done well to secure the services of Marquez from Hyderabad FC. The Gaurs have enlisted some exciting names, amongst them Sandesh Jhingan, Udanta Singh, Paulo Retre, and Carlos Martinez, to mention a few.

The 54-year-old has also recruited the seasoned defender Odei Onaindia, reuniting with him at FC Goa. Having claimed the Durand Cup two years ago in 2021 on their inaugural attempt, the Gaurs will undoubtedly aspire to once again lift the prestigious trophy under the guidance of their new head coach.

Read More: Manolo Marquez at FC Goa: What to expect?

Rivalries intensified

For the second consecutive year, Kolkata giants East Bengal FC and Mohun Bagan SG find themselves placed in the same group for the Durand Cup. With only the group winners and the top two second-placed teams set to advance to the knockout stage, much will be on the line when these two sides meet on August 12th at the iconic Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata.

Read More: Kolkata Giants locked in a tough pool with Punjab FC

Similarly, in Group C, Southern rivals Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters FC have also been drawn together. Gokulam Kerala FC have also been grouped in the same Group C, adding to the anticipation of an exciting encounter between the two Kerala sides.

As these teams clash on the field, the rivalries are bound to intensify, and fans will be on the edge of their seats to witness these thrilling matches.

New look teams

As many as seven ISL teams – Chennaiyin FC, East Bengal FC, FC Goa, Hyderabad FC, Jamshedpur FC, NorthEast United FC, and Odisha FC – have made changes in their hot seats.

Notable figures like Carles Cuadrat, Sergio Lobera, and Owen Coyle, who previously tasted success in India, have made a return to Indian football. However, Lobera will be occupied with the senior squad for the pre-season tour in Thailand, with Odisha FC fielding their reserve side in the Durand Cup. Meanwhile, figures such as Juan Pedro Benali, Conor Nestor, and Scott Cooper will be embarking on a new chapter.

Read MoreNew-look Chennaiyin FC, Hyderabad FC look to make a mark

The Durand Cup will serve as the perfect stage for these new head coaches to familiarize themselves with their players, execute their plans, and even strategize for the rest of the season.

The diverse tactical approaches of these coaches will surely be something to look forward to in the Durand Cup.

An opportunity for younger players to shine

Odisha FC have decided to field their reserve team for the Durand Cup, while Mohun Bagan Super Giant have also confirmed of fielding a combined squad comprising both junior and senior players.

Other ISL clubs would also like to offer young talents an opportunity to display their skills on the esteemed platform of the Durand Cup. Players who have demonstrated strong performances in age-level tournaments are eager to seize this chance as it arises, aiming to capitalize on it and earn the commendation of their respective head coaches.

In short, the Durand Cup serves as a potential stepping stone for aspiring young players who aim to excel in the ISL.

Read More: Odisha FC’s youngsters look to impress