China Super League kicks off 2006 with more teams

The 2006 China Super League will kick off on 11 March and run for 38 weeks. The schedule was released by the Chinese Football Association after consultations in Beijing with presidents of the Super League clubs.

Sixteen teams will play a total of 240 games with the bottom two being relegated and the top two China League teams gaining promotion. Relegation will be introduced from this season onwards after major clubs had threatened a boycott citing lack of sponsor interest.

Sinosoc reported that more teams will be eligible for the China FA Cup, while the CSL Cup has been cancelled after just two seasons.

Current CSL champions Dalian Shide and Shanghai Shenhua will play in the Chinese Super Cup, the curtain raiser, a week before the league starts.

Titan Sports, a Chinese newspaper, reported that former China coach Bobby Houghton will return to the country to guide struggling Super League team Shenyang Ginde. It said he will earn about US$ 20,000 per month on an 11 month contract although the club will release him early if the Chinese national team offers him a coaching position.

The north-eastern team finished second-to-last among the Super League's 14 teams last season.

According to AP, Houghton has said he's interested in again advising the national team, which has struggled since qualifying for its first-ever World Cup finals in 2002. He was praised for developing young players during his 1998-2000 stint as China's coach.

He left Uzbekistan earlier this month after leading the Central Asian side to the brink of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

China's current coach, Zhu Guanghu, says he wants to bring the former Fulham midfielder back as a technical adviser, but has reportedly been unable to come up with the funds.