RIYADH —Saudi Arabia’s Professional League will increase from 16 clubs to 18 from the 2023-24 season onward, the Saudi Arabia Football Federation announced on Thursday.

To facilitate the expansion, only two teams, instead of the usual three, will be relegated from the top tier at the end of next season. Four teams will be promoted.

It was also agreed that from the same season, teams will be able to sign eight foreign players, one more than currently allowed, though only seven can play at any one time. Saudi Arabia’s foreign player limit has been higher than most other leagues, but the rest of Asia is catching up.

The federation is keen to expand the league at a time when Saudi Arabia is enjoying a period of achievements in football. The national team qualified for its sixth World Cup last month by winning Group B ahead of Japan and Australia. In November, Al-Hilal became the Asian champions for a record fourth time by defeating South Korea’s Pohang Steelers 2-0 in the final in Riyadh.

SAFF President Yasser Al-Misehal said the move, agreed in a meeting with the country’s clubs, will put Saudi Arabia’s league in alignment with the biggest and best in the world.

“The large international leagues that are highly competitive have between 18 teams and 20 teams,” Al-Misehal said. “We saw that it was time to take an additional step here in Saudi Arabia and raise the number of clubs to 18 in the professional league, starting from the 2023-24 season.”

He added that the most important reason for the move “is the desire to increase competition between clubs, which will help to produce more talent, and the benefits from this will be reflected in the national team, too.” 

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