THE outcome of the Philippines Football League 2020 wasn’t really much of a surprise with United City FC snaring the title.
Even the strong performance of the Azkals Development Team was expected as well, as what I wrote in an earlier column (Tipping the Balance) picking UCFC, Kaya FC-Iloilo and the ADT as the teams to keep an eye on in the compressed bubble league.
I was a bit disappointed, though, with Kaya’s continuing underachievement at this level.
The club’s 2-1 win last night over rivals United City was a game too late, as United City still topped the league with 12 points to edge Kaya by a mere point.
While Kaya can claim bragging rights for handing the champions its only defeat in the league, the overall result nevertheless cemented their place as perennial runners-up.
Still, that wouldn’t be so bad for Kaya as it has earned a group stage slot to the AFC Cup 2021 tournament, and more importantly, a qualifying playoffs spot in the expanded AFC Champions League also for next year.
United City, by virtue of being the 2020 PFL champions, secured an outright slot to the Champions League group stage.
Barring any escalation of the pandemic, 2021 will be a busy year for the country’s top two clubs, which also means plenty of exciting football for Filipino fans.
Hopefully, quarantine restrictions ease further and the 2021 PFL resumes early on to regain lost ground.
Though they didn’t fare as well, the three other clubs that participated in the tournament—Maharlika FC, Stallion Laguna FC and Mendiola FC 1991 deserve huge props for making the competition meaningful all throughout.
I believe it’s just a matter of time that any of these three clubs should make a breakthrough in Philippine football.
But one team that gained the most from this league in terms of experience and valuable lessons learned is the ADT.
Racking up three wins and two losses (both to the top two sides) to finish third with a solid nine points, this young squad shows plenty of promise with their physical play, controlled aggression and calculated attacks.
If the Southeast Asia Games pushes through next year, the young Azkals should be a more confident, competent and dangerous side coming to the competition.