UFL League kicking off with big changes

The country's most competitive Football league kicks off next week with a simple message.

Change is good.

The United Football League will feature a host of new tweaks when it kicks off on February 5.
First of all, it will have a brand-new home: The McKinley Hill Football Field. The facility, located in Taguig, will host both first and second division games starting in late February.

There are already temporary bleachers around the stadium and a more permanent grandstand is in the works, as well as proper showers and locker rooms.

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While it gets its finishing touches, the games during the first two weeks of the season will be held in the venerable Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.

McKinley Hill's artificial pitch means there will be no more cancellations due to bad weather, a predicament that plagued the league last year when games were largely held in the University of Makati pitch.

The league also gets more televised games a week on a new time slot.

AKTV will air four live games, two on Tuesdays and another on Thursdays, starting at five pm.
There will also be three games on both Saturdays and Sundays that will not be televised, two from Division Two and a nightcap from Division One.

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There will also be a new promotion-relegation system in place for the coming season.
In 2012 the bottom team from the top tier, Navy, was sent down to Division Two while the second division champs, Pachanga, earned passage to Division One.

For 2013 that will also be the case, but the second-place Division Two team will also have a chance for promotion via a two-legged aggregate-goals playoff series against the 9th-place (second-worst) club in the top tier.

This is similar to the German Bundesliga model, where the third place Bundesliga 2 club meets the third-worst Bundesliga 1 side in a playoff.

The revised promotion-relegation rule should make the competition in the cellar of Division One and the top of Division Two even more fierce.

As is with most Football leagues in the world, the League will utilize a straight double-round robin format with no playoffs to determine a champion. The team with the most points lifts the trophy. A draw is worth one point while a win gives a team three points.

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According to UFL Chairman Santi Araneta, the UFL teams have also settled on a new rule: they will prioritize the National Team and will commit to releasing their players 48 hours before an Azkals game.

The league will take a break in mid-March to help the Nationals prepare for the 2014 Challenge Cup qualifiers which will take place starting March 22 in Rizal Memorial. That break will extend into the Holy Week.

After the League concludes in June the UFL plans to have a Super Cup, another competition with the best UFL teams, two teams from the provinces, and perhaps one foreign club.

The new season will also bow with a veritable Rigodon de Amor of player transfers. Pachanga's veteran striker Freddy Gonzalez switched allegiance to the Loyola Meralco Sparks, where he joins Armand Del Rosario, formerly of Kaya.

Meralco also gets attacking mid Antonio De Murga, Carlie's older brother.

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Chieffy Caligdong has traded in his military status for a civilian role in Green Archers United Globe. The Archers also snapped up Jovanie Simpron and Jake Hugo from Stallion.

Stallion has seen an exodus of its homegrown players, with Ansing Gustilo, Vince Braga, and Antonio Albor all joining Air Force along with goalie Kenneth Dolloso, who has bounced from Global to Pachanga to Pasargad and now to Villamor Air Base in just three years.

Stallion, with new sponsor Santa Lucia, picks up keeper Jerome Etoundi, late of Global, and former Kaya midfielder Prince Mark Boley. Rugby Sevens International Andrew Wolff also joins them along with Brazilians Daniel Matsunaga, Fabio Ide and Hector Zaghi.

Korean midfield engine Park Bo Bae, sidelined by injury for much of 2012, returns to Stallion.

PSG, nee Pasargad, lets go of Masoud Shedideh and brings in four new Iranians, notably Reza Ataei in goal.

Nomads welcomes former Stallion and Kaya vet Selu Lozano as well as Fidelis Nnabuife, recently with Global.

Army had little off-season action, only adding five new faces, notably tall defender Efren Pabilona.

The two Kaya-Loyola clashes will have two sets of brothers opposing each other, Chris Greatwich for Kaya and brother Simon for the Sparks, while Armand Del Rosario of Meralco could face off against sibling Anton.

The Soriano brothers from West Negros are the most spread out, with Jalor playing for the Airmen, Janrick suiting up for Kaya, and Jalsor wearing the tangerine of Loyola.

One thing will be unchanged though. Santi Araneta announced that there will be no cap on foreigners in the league just yet, and that a limit will not be in place until a year or two.


5pm: Army vs Loyola
7pm: Global vs PSG

5pm: Green Archers vs Stallion Sta. Lucia
7pm: Pachanga vs Kaya

Live coverage of both of these doubleheaders can be found on AKTV on IBC.

You can follow the league on Twitter @ UFLPhilippines. Follow Bob @bhobg333.

Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.