By Nissi Icasiano
MANILA, Philippines - Sixteen football squads from different universities and colleges will slug it out for the Ang Liga trophy as the league’s 12th season opens shop on Saturday, June 21.
Founded by San Beda head coach Aris Caslib and College of Saint Benilde mentor Marlon Maro in 2003, Ang Liga is an annual inter-school soccer tournament which pits the best collegiate teams in the country before the commencement of the regular football season during the academic year’s second semester.
For this year, Ang Liga is introducing a new tourney format as the 16 teams will be divided into two groups of eight.
Each bracket plays a round-robin elimination, in which every 11-man troop is slated for seven matches against other squadrons in the same group.
The top two teams of each cluster will advance in the crossover semi-final round, where the winners will go head-to-head for the Ang Liga title.
Meanwhile, the third and fourth-ranked brigades in both groups will have the opportunity to vie for the plate championship in the similar crossover system.
Group A houses a number of strong competitors with the likes of the defending Ang Liga and four-peat National Collegiate Athletic Association champion (NCAA) San Beda Red Booters, Maro’s Saint Benilde Blazers, and the five-time University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) titlist University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons.
Two team representatives from National University, Malayan Colleges Laguna, Don Bosco Technical College and Emilio Aguinaldo University complete the cast in Group A.
Group B is composed of University of Santo Tomas’ Graduate School, Arellano University, University of the East, Ateneo De Manila University, Rizal Technological University, Lyceum of the Philippines University, De La Salle Lipa, and University of Perpetual Help System Dalta.
“We made sure to invite all the top football teams from different colleges and universities to put up the level of competition in the collegiate ranks. Fortunately, we will be fielding 16 of them. This is undeniably the most competitive Ang Liga to date,” Caslib tells Rappler.
Ang Liga will be running for nine weeks, with four 90-minute regulations being played every Saturday and Sunday.
With the Philippine Football Federation serving as its backbone, the competition holds more promise as the technical committee gained a lucrative sponsorship with Star Sports Korea and LGR Athletic Wears as well as securing four playing venues.
San Beda College and Ateneo De Manila University will be hosting most of the football contests, while Malayan Colleges Laguna will cater as the backup location.
The championship round and the battle for third place are scheduled to be held at the state-of-the-art Emperador Stadium in Taguig City, which is the home field of the United Football League.
“Definitely, we are taking it into another level this time. Our goal is to show everyone that the collegiate league is at par with the major leagues of the country. That’s why we want to tap as many teams as possible to put a high-standard of play in the field. With this kind of exposure and support we’re getting, it’s possible in the coming years,” Caslib stressed.
The opening festivity of the 12th Ang Liga football season takes place at the Ateneo high school soccer field on Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City. -