The new Chinese Super League season will begin on June 3 in three centralized hubs as professional football makes it return despite the country’s ongoing battle to suppress the COVID-19 pandemic.

The cities of Dalian in northeast China’s Liaoning Province, Haikou in south China’s Hainan Province and Meizhou in south China’s Guangdong Province will host the 18 top-flight teams, according to an announcement made on the league’s official social media account yesterday.

The start to the season has been delayed due to the recent resurgence of the coronavirus.

The 2020 and 2021 seasons were also affected, with both campaigns held in bio-secure centralized hubs after lengthy delays to their expected start dates.

Teams have already traveled to their designated venues ahead of the new season and have resumed training following quarantine stints.

Shandong Taishan is the defending champion and will be among the favorites to claim this year’s title alongside Shanghai Port.

Several clubs, however, are expected to struggle due to financial constraints, including eight-time champion Guangzhou FC. Owned by heavily-indebted property developer China Evergrande Group, Guangzhou finished third last season but has since released many of its foreign players and will field a side made up largely of local players and academy graduates.

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