Philippine football got a big boost as the Philippine Football Federation (PFF)-Smart Club Championships integrated a program that would bring the United Football League (UFL) to the provinces and pit them against the local clubs.
During yesterday’s press conference at the Neo Neo Restaurant in Mabolo, PFF competitions department head Cyril Dofitas said this year’s edition of the tournament will be participated by the top 10 teams of the UFL and games will be held not just in Manila but also in the provinces.
Dofitas said the provinces play a key role in the promotion and development of football in the country.
Epok Quimpo, Smart Sports manager, said they have made it a point to go around regionally and give provincial football clubs a chance to participate in this tournament.
He added that this is a big incentive for provincial clubs because they are given opportunities to play against the country’s premier football clubs who have in their lineup members of the Phillipine National Football Team.
Dofitas said through this, the PFF is given a chance to evaluate football’s development at the provincial level.
According to Dofitas, the main point of inserting a PFF program into the tournament is to strengthen the provincial association clubs as they go up against the country’s top football clubs.
He added that this is also the reason why they are not limiting the number of foreign players in the participating clubs because their presence would elevate the level of the sport.
To be a able to compete, a club must be a member of the Provincial Football Association (PFA) or a probationary PFA.
Currently, there are 33 existing PFAs in the country with 11 coming from Luzon, five from the Visayas and 17 from Mindanao.
The National Capital Region (NCR) will be represented by top 10 clubs from the ongoing 2012 UFL Cup.
Each PFA must only be represented by one club and is responsible of holding its own eliminations, said Dofitas.
For the Cebu Football Association (CFA), the qualifying tournament is the Aboitiz Football Cup.
Qualified teams will then advance to the cluster eliminations. There are two clusters in Luzon, one in the Visayas and four in Mindanao.
Teams will be playing in a single round-robin format with the top teams advancing to the regional eliminations then the top two teams advancing to the Round of 16, the start of the knockout stage, wherein they will be joined by the top 10 UFL teams.
In the Round of 16, qualified teams will be divided into two groups. The top 8 UFL teams will comprise the first group and the remaining two UFL teams will join the six regional qualifiers from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao in the second group.
Only two matches will be played in Manila as the rest will be played in the provinces. So, if a provincial team draws a UFL team, the match will be played in their turf.
The top eight teams from the Round of 16 will advance to the quarterfinals, top four to the semifinals and top two to the finals.
This season of the tournament will start with the elimination next month then finish next year with the championship to be held at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in February.