If you’re a die-hard Pinoy football fan, this is probably the sweetest word you can hear since the day your significant other told you they love you.
We all waited for quite some time but here it is. THE PFL WILL KICK OFF ON OCTOBER 24, 2020 AT THE PFF NATIONAL TRAINING CENTRE IN CARMONA, CAVITE.
Here’s how its looking like so far.
The PFL Bubble
To minimize the risk of COVID-19, PFL Commissioner Coco Torre met with all six clubs participating in the league and informed them of setting up a bubble where the teams and officials will stay in Seda Nuvali in Sta. Rosa, Laguna while all matches will be played at the PFF National Training Centre in Carmona, Cavite where all the teams are also conducting their training sessions.
While they are finalizing the protocols which will then be sent to the Games and Amusements Board (GAB) and the Department of Health for approval. It may seem like a formality of sorts as similar to the PBA, a bubble setup could easily be approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).
This year, the league could be wide open as all six team don’t have any idea yet of how each team will play apart from the performance of the mainstays Kaya FC-Iloilo, Stallion Laguna FC, Mendiola FC 1991 and United City FC formerly known as Ceres-Negros FC.
With the lack of friendly matches and team scrimmages, it will be difficult for each team to get a feel of their tactical movements until the big kick-off.
However, they may lack the connection but this year’s challengers have surely ramped up their squads.
Starting off with Stallion Laguna FC, they have signed Finn McDaniel who announced it himself on his Instagram account.
The Filipino-American was part of the Philippines U-22 squad who participated in the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara which they’ve used to prepare for the 2019 SEA Games.
Prior to signing a deal with the Biñan-based stable, he played for US NCAA Division 1 side California Baptist University.
Heading over to the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara debutants and semi-finalists Mendiola FC 1991, they’ve yet to reveal who they’ve signed during the break but they are definitely ready to give the big clubs a run of their money this season.
Last year’s runners-up Kaya FC-Iloilo have used the off-season to find some precious talents and they’ve announced two key signings ahead of the big kick-off.
Hoping to give their team captain Jovin Bedic a striking partner after Jordan Mintah’s departure to Malaysia, Kaya FC have signed the Ghanian Emmanuel Osei.
The 27-year old forward have plied most of his trades in his home country with stints with Ashanti Kotoko, Ashanti Gold, and Bechem United before taking his skills to Kyrgyzstan with FK Dordoi Bishkek from July 2018 until the end of 2019.
Another key signing for the Iloilo-based booters is former University of Santo Tomas standout OJ Clariño.
His professional career was quite decorated as he played for several clubs in the Philippines. From playing with Pachanga to taking his skills to Stallion Laguna FC where he was part of the 2013 UFL championship-winning squad, he’ll be taking on a new challenge as he will be facing his former employers this season.
They might be a guest team this season but The Azkals Development Team (ADT) will certainly bring the intensity to the league and will definitely challenge the top brasses of Philippine club football.
Hoping to polish their skills and establish the next generation of The Azkals, the ADT boasts some serious talents with the likes of Christian Rontini, Quincy Kammeraad, and homegrown booters Lance Ocampo and Jarvey Gayoso.
Last but not the least, debutants Maharlika Manila FC will be fielding one of the most interesting squad this season. Featuring ex-Azkals Misagh Bahadoran, Anton Del Rosario, Simon Greatwich, and David Basa with the mix of young bloods like MJ Libre and Melvic Pitogo.
What makes it more interesting is that they will be fielding three more players who came from their “Pisong Pangarap” program where these players will be given a chance of a lifetime to play in the PFL.
These players are former Mapua Institute of Technology team captain Bency Villanueva, Jethro Castillo, and Enzo Hermosa.
They also acquired the services of the Spaniard Joaco Cañas whose last stint in the Philippines was with Meralco Manila FC.
The Defending Champions
They might’ve gone a major overhaul with Ceres-Negros FC being renamed as United City Football Club but they will go out there to defend their title and fight for AFC Champions League outright qualification spot with all of their might.
Before the start of their preparations, the defending champions got off on a wrong foot as coach Risto Vidakovic decided not to continue with the club for this season.
However, most of the core players from the three-time PFL champions remained like team captain and now assistant coach Stephan Schröck, attacking trident Robert-Lopez Mendy, Bienvenido Marañon and OJ Porteria, and Manny Ott.
They’ve also acquired some key players in the build-up to the start of the season like the Far Eastern University Baby Tamaraws standout Pocholo Bugas, Jordan Jarvis, and Anthony Pinthus on loan from the ADT.
The Finals Series is Back
After its introduction in the inaugural season back in 2017, the PFL re-introduces the Finals Series for the competition this year. With the league having to play a constrained season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the perfect time to bring back the said format.
With six teams, single-round robin and play-offs format, this will be a fast-paced season to crown the champions of what could’ve been the biggest season of the league so far given the magnitude of the sponsorship it got with Qatar Airways.
The Big Opening Day
Once everything is set in stone, the 2020 Philippines Football League brought to you by Qatar Airways will feature an epic double header on October 24, 2020.
The Azkals Development Team will square off against Mendiola FC 1991 at 4:30 pm while Stallion-Laguna FC will clash against Kaya FC-Iloilo at 8:30 PM.
The following day, debutants Maharlika Manila FC will face the defending champions United City FC.
As of the moment, the league is closing in on a broadcasting deal to allow the fans to watch the matches live on different platforms.