The Indian Women’s League (IWL) is the country’s top-tier women’s football competition and was first held in 2016.

IWL started as a six-team competition but now sees participation from 12 sides.

The first-ever women’s football competition ever to be introduced was the Senior Women's National Football Championship. However, the competition is a female equivalent of the Santosh Trophy, meaning that only regional teams and government institutions in India can participate.

In 1993, Calcutta Women's Football League came into existence and this became the first football league for women's clubs in India. Since then, many regional leagues across various parts of the country were introduced.

However, the lack of support means these leagues were either dissolved entirely or were postponed for a long time.

Indian Women’s League: The beginning

The idea of launching the Indian Women’s League in India was in the pipeline since 2014; the same year when Indian Super League was introduced. However, it took two years to implement the plan and in 2016, a six-team Indian Women’s League started.

The teams played in a single league format with the top four teams qualifying for the semi-final. Eastern Sporting Union were crowned the inaugural champions after defeating Rising Student 3-0 in the final.

Expansion in 2017

After an overwhelming response, the organizers made significant changes to the competition. First, it was extended to seven teams and the sides were also allowed to rope in foreign players, although only one non-Indian was allowed in the starting 11.

The participants grew from seven to 12 in the 2018-19 season and it has been the same ever since. 

Indian Women’s League format

While it took knockout rounds to decide a winner in the first couple of the editions, the organizers made several changes to the format of the Indian Women’s League between 2018 and 2022.

As of today, the teams play in a single round-robin format, meaning that the team with the most points at the end takes the title. Three points are awarded for a win and a point for a draw. The losing team gets no points.

In case two or more teams have the same amount of points at the end of the league, the winner is decided through the following:

- Highest number of points accumulated in matches between the teams concerned.

- Highest goal difference in matches between the teams concerned.

- Highest number of goals scored in matches between the teams concerned.

- Highest goal difference.

- Highest number of goals scored.

- Lowest number of red cards accumulated.

- Lowest number of yellow cards accumulated.

- Coin Toss.

Indian Women’s League winners list

Season Winners Score Runners-up
2016-17 Eastern Sporting Union 3-0 Rising Students’ Club
2017-18 Rising Students’ Club 1-1
5-4 on penalties
Eastern Sporting Union
2018-19 Sethu 3-1 Manipur Police
2019-20 Gokulam Kerala 3-2 KRYPHSA
2021-22 Gokulam Kerala - Sethu

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Featured photo: Twitter / Indian Football Team