The Saudi Pro League will increase by two teams next season while the prize money for teams in Division One will increase six fold as part of radical changes to the league system announced by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) on Friday.
The foreign-player quota in the First Division has also been revised, with clubs now allowed to sign seven foreign players instead of two, with a maximum of six foreigners allowed on the pitch at the same time.
But it is the upscaling of the top league in the country, from 14 to 16 teams, that is the big news from the announcement made on Twitter on Friday morning. The new configuration will be achieved by promoting the top two from the First Division at the end of the season. The bottom two of the Saudi Pro League this season will face the sides finishing third and fourth in the First Division in a two-legged play-off at the end of the season to decide the other remaining spots in the top tier.
From next season, the bottom three sides in the Pro League will be relegated and replaced by the top three sides in the First Division. The side finishing 13th in the top flight will have to enter a two-legged playoff against the fourth-placed team in the First Division.
The number of teams competing in the First Division will be increased from 16 to 20 from next season and the winners will receive SR5 million ($1.3 million), up from SR750,000 this season. The runners-up will pocket SR3 million instead of SR400,000 and the third-place team will land SR2 million, a significant jump from SR175,000.
Further down the pyramid, the Second Division will grow from 20 teams to 24 teams while the Third Division has been scrapped.
The Olympic League, an U-21 competition, will also be abolished at the end of the season. According to a spokesman, the SAFF is working on an alternative plan for competition youth football in the Kingdom, one that will best serve its preparation for the AFC U-23 Championship and the Olympic Games in 2020.
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