Today, the CSL announced a tentative plan for the league to resume in the next six weeks or so, reducing the number of games since competition should have started almost three months ago due to the corona virus.
Things are a bit complicated, however. The 16 clubs have been split into two groups – one based on those who finished in an even ranking last year, and the other on an odd number.
Guangzhou Evergrande, Jiangsu Suning, Shandong Luneng, Henan Construction, Guangzhou R&F, Shanghai Shenhua and Shenzhen FC
Beijing Guoan, Shanghai SIPG, Wuhan Zall, Tianjin Teda, Chongqing Lifan, Hebei China Fortunate, Qingdao Huanghai and Shijiazhuang Everbright.
Phase 1: The teams are separated by group, all teams will face each other at home and away for a total of 14 matches to determine the ranking.
Phase 2A: This is where it gets tricky. The groups are not separated, the best 4 teams and the last 4 teams of each group will be divided. The games will be A1-A4 (let’s call the winner of this Alpha1), A2-A3 (Alpha2), A5-A8 (Alpha3), A6-A7 (Alpha 4). The same structure will exist in group B and we will use a similar name for the next step. It will be a face to face, at home and away. At the end of 2A, the teams will be divided according to the winners and losers combining groups A and B: 1-4, 5-8, 9-12 and 13-16.
Phase 2B and 2C: Treat these stages as semi-finals and finals for finish number 1, 5, 9 and 13. The groups are split, Alpha1 will play Beta2 and Alpha2 will play Beta1 at home and away, the same is true for each of the other three “groups”. From there we move on to the final phase, Phase 2C, with the winners of Alpha 1 / Beta 2 vs. Alpha 2 / Beta 1 and the losers clashing at home and away to determine the final standings. Of these last eight matches, only two will matter, in determining the champion and third place (for the ACL).
The end result will cut the CSL season from 30 to 20 games. It will also limit travel somewhat in the early stages with a lot of teams grouped together (but not in the more ideal North / South split). No official start date has been announced, but the season is expected to start in late June / early July.