Cristiano Ronaldo’s signing for Al Nassr last season marked the emergence of Saudi Arabia as a formidable force in the transfer market. The ongoing summer transfer window has witnessed Saudi Arabian football clubs negotiating with several big names. From reigning Ballon d’Or holder Karim Benzema to 2018 World Cup-winning midfielder N’Golo Kante – the Saudi Pro League is set to host quite a few global icons in the next season.
Ahead of the 2023-24 campaign, Saudi Pro League’s Interim CEO Saad Al Lazeez has disclosed details about the country’s roadmap to become a football powerhouse.
“The Saudi Pro League has an incredible opportunity to help fulfill the country’s football ambitions and inspire more of its population to get into sport. The Saudi Pro League (SPL) will take a central, elevated role in supporting and developing clubs,” Saad Al Lazeez said in a media statement. Keeping the importance of youth development in mind, he vowed to focus on nurturing budding talents from next season.
“From next season, the SPL will become younger and more competitive, taking advantage of the groundwork the Saudi Arabian Football Federation has been putting in at the grassroots for many years. One of the things that we are also doing to emphasize and improve the quality and competitiveness of the league is to make the league younger. This has more to it than simply bringing world-class players and talent there or spending big amounts of money on those players,” Al Lazeez added.
The Saudi Pro League is bringing in new regulations and initiatives ahead of the new season. Key among them is reducing the age of eligibility from 18 to 16 to help increase the playing time of young Saudi players.
In a bid to build a robust youth development system, the Saudi Pro League will witness a reduction in squad sizes from the current strength of 35 players overall to 25 senior members. The remainder of 10 footballers will need to be under the age of 21 from the 2025-2026 season.
The new season of the Saudi Pro League is scheduled to start from August 11 with a match between Al Ahli Saudi and Al Hazm. Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr will start their 2023-24 domestic league campaign on August 14. In their season opener, Al Nassr will be up against Steven Gerrard-coached Al Ettifaq.
In the last season of the domestic Saudi league, 16 teams participated. The new season will include two more outfits. With 18 teams featuring in the 2023-24 season of the Saudi Pro League, all sides will be taking part in 34 games each overall.
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