Reigning titleholder United City FC begins its title-retention bid today when it clashes with Maharlika Manila FC in the opening day of the Philippine Football League (PFL) fifth season at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. with UCFC hunting for a convincing win and three solid points to gain early lead in the top-flight tourney shelved by the Covid-19 pandemic last year.
Kaya Iloilo FC will also try to get things going when it battles the Azkals Development Team at 4 p.m.
UCFC team owner Eric Gottschalk said his booters are now locked and loaded for a fiery battle on the pitch after an intense preseason buildup.
The upcoming season will revert to its original quadruple round-robin format it had before the pandemic struck the country in 2020.
It will be far from the abbreviated tourney which it staged in Carmona, Cavite two years ago, where United City only played six games to claim its fourth straight trophy.
“UCFC was able to play a few training matches which makes this the best pre-season preparation we have had since 2020,” Gottschalk told Daily Tribune in an interview.
“It’s time to get back to competitions and we look forward to a very competitive season starting on Sunday.”
“All teams have prepared well and some have added some strong players to their line up which should give the fans some exciting match ups.”
After skipping the Copa Paulino Alcantara last year, UCFC came back and showcased its toughness by clinching the Copa crown in a thrilling 3-2 comeback win over Kaya in the finals in May.
Although Golden Ball winner Mike Ott left the team for Indonesia, the club will still feature a solid core bannered by Mark Hartmann, Hikaru Menigishi and goalkeeper Anthony Pinthus.
But Maharlika will be a dangerous side.
After finishing near the cellar in the Copa, the Manila-based club is raring to unleash a more aggressive campaign by infusing young bloods into the roster.
Among its latest signings include Cameroonian booter Frank Baring and former collegiate standouts in Spence Galasa, Marvin Ace Viray and Lawrence Baguio.
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