Santosh Trophy is an annual Indianfootball tournament which is contested by states and government institutions. The first winners were Bengal, who also lead the all-time winners list with 31 titles till date.
The tournament first began in 1941, and was the premier football competition in the country before the National Football League started in the year 1996. The trophy as named after the late Maharaja Sir Manmatha Nath Roy Chowdhary of Santosh, which is now in Bangladesh, who had been the President of the Indian Football Association, the football organisation of Bengal and the donators of the trophy.
The competition has seen a few changes in the format through the years. In the present format, there is a qualifying round involving eight clusters of three or four teams each. The eight winners from each cluster are then drawn along with four seeded teams, who do not have to come through qualifying, and these twelve teams are then divided into four groups of three each. This is the quarterfinal league stage, in which each of the three teams in the group play each other. The winners of each group then move to the semifinals. The semifinals and the final are single-legged fixtures, with extra time, golden goal and penalty shootout, if required.
The main tournament will have 16 teams. The hosts along with Winners, Runners-Up, and Third-Placed will directly enter into the main tournament. If the host is among Winner, Runners-Up, or Third-Placed team, the fourth-placed team will also directly qualify to main tournament.
The remaining teams will be split into 3 zones. Top 4 teams in each zones will qualify to main tournament. Each Zones will have 2 Groups. Top-two teams in each groups will qualify to Final Round.