The 63rd National Senior Football Championships for the Santosh Trophy begins at four venues, including two here, in Tamil Nadu from May 24.
The initial phase of the championships to spot the four teams, which would join four directly seeded teams, will feature 27 teams drawn in eight clusters.The eight teams will play in knock-out pre-quarterfinals and four teams will join defending champions Punjab, last year's runners-up Services and semifinalists West Bengal and Karnataka in the quarterfinal league which will be held in chennai from June 2.
Kerala take on Nagaland (cluster I) in the inaugural match on May 24 in Coimbatore while hosts Tamil Nadu play Rajasthan (Cluster VIII) at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on the opening day.
On the same day, Madhya Pradesh (Cluster III) play Jammu and Kashmir at Tiruchirappalli while Railways meet Delhi at Thiruvallore in a cluster V match.The championship is being held in Tamil Nadu for the 10th time and the hosts' best performance so far is a runners-up finish in 1972-73, losing the final to Goa.
Cletus Babu, President Tamil Nadu Football Association, told reporters that about 40 national referees have been drafted for duty by the All India Football Federation.Former champions Kerala and Maharashtra, with a clutch of top rung players are favourites in Cluster I and II, while strong contenders Goa are placed in Cluster V.