How many foreign players are allowed in the top 18 Asian Leagues?

Goal takes a look at the foreign player quota in the leagues of the 18 Asian countries who are above India in the latest FIFA rankings…

Two leagues, the Indian Super League (ISL) and the I-League run parallelly in the Indian domestic football structure.

Till the 2019-20 season, the foreign player regulations were almost similar in the ISL and the I-League. ISL clubs could register a maximum of seven players in their squad and field maximum five in the starting XI. I-League clubs, on the other hand, could register six overseas players and field five of them during a game.

In India, the foreign player rules have always been subject to constant changes.

In the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) competitions though, a club is allowed to register and field a maximum of four overseas players out of which one has to be from an AFC member nation. 

India are currently ranked 19th in Asia and 108th in the world. In this article, Goal takes a look at the foreign player regulations of the 18 countries that are ranked above the Blue Tigers.

The J1 League, the top tier of Japan football, has no limits on foreign players. Each club can keep maximum of five foreign players in their matchday squad. However, players from J-League’s partner nations (Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, Cambodia, Singapore, Indonesia and Qatar) do not come under this criteria which means a side can technically field an XI without a Japanese player.

Persian Gulf Pro League, the top tier league of Iran, allows clubs to register four foreigners out of which one has to be from an AFC member nation. All four players can be included in the starting lineups.

#3 Korea Republic (40)

Korea Republic’s top tier league, the K1 League, allows its clubs to register a maximum of five foreigners out of which one has to be from an AFC nation and one from an ASEAN country. All the registered players are allowed in the starting lineup.

A-League clubs can register a maximum of five overseas players. An exception is there though. Players born abroad but have since gone on to gain Australian citizenship and New Zealand citizenship (in case of Wellington Phoenix) are exempted. Also, Australian citizens and New Zealand citizens (in the case of Wellington Phoenix) who have chosen to represent another national team, or, a foreign Guest Player (eligible to play a maximum of fourteen games) are exempted. All five registered players are allowed in the starting lineup.

The Qatar Super League (QSL) allows clubs to register a maximum of five foreigners out of which one has to be from an AFC nation and one from any of the Arab countries. All registered foreigners are allowed in starting lineups.

The Saudi Professional League (SPL) is the most liberal league in Asia in terms of allowing foreign players to ply their trade in the league. The SPL clubs can register as many as eight foreigners but one of them has to be of Saudi Arabian origin. Seven foreign players are allowed in the starting lineup.

#7 Iraq (70)

The Iraqi Premier League allows its clubs to register a maximum of three foreign players. All of them are allowed in the starting lineup.

#8 UAE (71)

There are no restrictions in signing overseas players for the UAE Gulf Pro League clubs but the clubs can register only four foreigners in their squads. All four registered overseas players can be included in the starting lineup.

Marouane Fellaini Shandong

The Chinese Super League (CSL) allows registration of four foreign players and out of which only three can be fielded in the starting XI. One non-resident but Chinese descent player from either Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan can be signed by the clubs.

#10 Syria (79)

Due to geopolitical reasons, currently, no foreign nationals ply their trade in the Syrian Premier League.

#11 Oman (82)

In the Oman Professional League, the club can register a maximum of four foreign players in the squad which includes one from an AFC nation. All overseas players allowed in the starting lineups.

#12 Uzbekistan (85)

Clubs in Uzbekistan Super League can register five foreign players out of which one has to be from an AFC nation. All overseas players allowed in the starting lineups.

#13 Lebanon (89)

The Lebanese Premier League allows its clubs to register a maximum of five foreign players which include one compulsorily from Palestine and one from any of the other AFC nations. All registered overseas players allowed in the starting lineups.

#14 Vietnam (94)

In the V. League1, each club can register a total of four foreign players out of which one has to be a naturalized Vietnamese. All registered overseas players are allowed in the starting lineups.

#15 Kyrgyz Republic (96)

Following the AFC competitions’ norms, the Kyrgyz Premier League allows four foreigners to be registered including one from an AFC member nation. All registered overseas players allowed in the starting lineups.

#16 Jordan (97)

The Jordan Pro League allows its clubs to register a maximum of three foreigners and none of these three players can be a goalkeeper. All registered overseas players allowed in the starting lineups.

#17 Bahrain (99)

The Bahraini Premier League allows its clubs to register a maximum of six foreigners in their squads but none of those players can be a goalkeeper. All registered overseas players allowed in the starting lineups.

#18 Palestine (103)

Just like India, two parallel leagues run in Palestine, the West Bank Premier League and the Gaza Strip Premier League. The Palestine Football Association (PFA) does not allow foreign nationals to ply their trade in either of the leagues but there is an exception. An unlimited number of Israeli players of Arab origin can play in the leagues.