Ukraine’s league expands after conflict disruption

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KIEV, Ukraine (AP) Ukraine’s soccer league is expanding back to 16 teams after years of turmoil sparked by the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in the country’s east.

The Ukrainian Football Federation says the coming 2019-20 season will be the last with 12 teams before an expansion to 14 for 2020-21 and 16 the following year.

The Ukrainian Premier League had 16 teams in 2013-14 but lost two based in Crimea after Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014.

Just 12 teams have competed since 2016, with some top clubs folding due to economic problems and others – including champion Shakhtar Donetsk – forced to play in exile because their home cities are held by Russia-backed separatists.

None of UEFA’s other top-10 ranked leagues has fewer than 16 teams.

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