The United Football League is looking to build on the interest generated by the staging of its UFL Cup when its league competition unfolds in January.
Though it will no longer have knockout stages, UFL president Randy Roxas of the Football Alliance yesterday said the league competition will only be as exciting with 10 teams involved in the first division and 10 more squads seeing action in the second division.
"Football is growing and clearly the level of play (in the UFL) has improved," said Roxas at the PSA Forum at the Shakey's U.N. Avenue in Manila.
Led by national players Chieffy Caligdong and Ian Araneta, Air Force Phoenix, a team built around the finest homegrown talents, bagged the UFL Cup last Saturday at the expense of Loyola Meralco powered by Phil and James Younghusband in a final watched by a record 6,000 fans at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
It also marked the first UFL Cup final that was aired live on national television after the league signed a five-year, P150 million broadcast deal with AKTV - TV5's sports channel.
"The locally-bred players have shown that they can hold their own against other teams with foreigners," said Roxas. "It just shows the quality of the league."
Roxas said they have discussed with the Philippine Football Federation on the possibility of having the UFL - being the country's premiere league - send a team to the Asian Football Confederation President's Cup, the third-tier club competition of the AFC.
Air Force will likely represent the country having won the league competition last June.
"I think its the right tournament for us because some ASEAN teams are also there and the rules (on eligibility) is not as stringent," said Roxas.
Roxas said the league opening on Jan. 14 could see a changing of the guard with teams from the Armed Forces - Air Force, Army and Navy - expected to encounter tougher opposition from new UFL powerhouses Kaya-Cignal, Global and Loyola Meralco.
Also seeing action in the first division are Green Archers United and newly-promoted sides Nomads, Stallion FC and Pasargad.
"We could see a changing of the guard in the league," said Roxas who is also one of the owners of the Loyola Sparks.
In league play, the team with the most points after playing against each squad twice in the division wins the title. A win is worth three points with a draw awarded a point.
Roxas said the roster of teams in the second division has yet to be finalized with more squads expressing interest to join. The second division champion automatically gets a slot in the first division next season.
Roxas said part of the plan to improve play of the homegrown players is to reduce foreigners in UFL teams to just five - in compliance with the AFC Presidents Cup rule.
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