The Santosh Trophy is an association football knock-out competition contested by the regional state associations and government institutions under the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the sport's governing body in India. Before the start of the first national club league, the National Football League, in 1996, the Santosh Trophy was considered the top domestic championship in India. Many players who have represented India internationally played and gained accolades while playing in the Santosh Trophy. The tournament is held every year with 31 teams who are divided into groups and who must qualify for the tournament proper through the preliminary round. The current champions are Services, who won their 6th title during the 2018–19 edition.
|Number of teams||31|
|Current champions||Services (6th title)|
|Most successful team(s)||West Bengal (32 titles)|
The tournament was started in 1941 and is named after the president of the Indian Football Association (West Bengal's football association) at the time, Sir Manmatha Nath Roy Chowdhary of Santosh. The IFA were the ones who donated the Santosh Trophy. The runner-up trophy was also donated by an ex-IFA president, S.K. Gupta. The trophy is known as the Kamla Gupta Trophy. The third-place trophy, the Sampangi Cup, was donated by the Karnataka State Football Association (then the Mysore Football Association).
The Santosh Trophy was started in 1941 after the then president of the Indian Football Association, West Bengal's football association, Sir Manmatha Nath Roy Chowdhary of Santosh, donated the trophy. At the time of the first tournament, India lacked a proper main championship for football teams. The other two main competitions at the time were the Durand Cup, Rovers Cup, and the IFA Shield and they were played by club sides. In 1990, in an attempt to bring through more younger players, the All India Football Federation made the Santosh Trophy into an under-23 competition. This move only lasted for three seasons before the tournament was reverted to a senior competition.
During his time as the head coach of India, Bob Houghton called for the tournament to be discontinued and that it was a waste of time and talent. He was more aggressive against the tournament after India striker Sunil Chhetri injured himself in the 2009 Santosh Trophy and had to miss the Nehru Cup. As a result, national team players were not allowed to participate in the tournament. This was also eventually reverted. In 2013 it was revealed that the AIFF decided that I-League players would not be allowed to participate in the Santosh Trophy.
The following teams participated in the tournament during the 2017–18 qualifiers.
- Andhra Pradesh
- Arunachal Pradesh
- Daman & Diu
- Himachal Pradesh
- Jammu and Kashmir
- Madhya Pradesh
- Tamil Nadu
- Uttar Pradesh
- West Bengal
|Karnataka (as Mysore)||4||5||1968–69|
|Andhra Pradesh (as Hyderabad)||2||2||1957–58|
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