Here we go. The moment we’ve been waiting for is finally here. Seven months and 28 matches later, the Philippines Football League regular season is done and dusted. Now comes the real challenge: the PFL Finals Series. Unlike traditional football leagues that simply crown the club that has amassed the most number of points as champion, the PFL, instead, employs an exciting knockout component.
FINALS SERIES FORMAT
After a quadruple round-robin among the eight participating clubs, only the top four in the PFL standings qualify for the next phase: a two-legged semifinal, with the top seed taking on the fourth placed finisher, and the second squaring off against the third. Here, each club will play once at home, and once away, with the winner determined by aggregate score — the sum of the score over both games. It’s important to emphasize that last part.
A team that wins the first leg, 4-1, for example, but loses in the second leg, 0-2, will still go through on an aggregate score of 4-3. So, the semifinal is measured as a whole over the two legs, rather than two separate games. This provides a distinct and vital contrast from the series format that usually utilizes a best-of-three, best-of-five, or best-of-seven games to determine a winner.
Should teams wind up finishing tied on aggregate, the side with more Away Goals scored will be awarded victory. To illustrate that, let’s use a theoretical situation.
Kaya Makati hosts Ceres Negros at the University of Makati in the first leg of the semifinal. After an entertaining 90 minutes, the match ends 2-0, in favor of the home side. In the second leg in Bacolod, Negros manages to win 3-1 in front of the Panaad Crowd. On aggregate, the score would be tied at 3-3. But with Makati managing to score an Away Goal in Bacolod, Kaya would move into the next round. This dynamic means teams playing at home need to be particularly wary of conceding goals, while the visiting teams are incentivized to be aggressive.
Should the Away Goals Rule fail to separate the two teams, two 15-minute extra time periods will be played. If still neither side can break the deadlock after the additional 30 minutes of play, the two-legged tie will be decided by the drama of penalties.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Both teams that progress from the semifinals will not only get the chance to fight for the opportunity to be crowned the first ever Philippines Football League champions, they will, as the top two clubs in the country, also qualify for AFC competition in 2018. The AFC Cup, and even more so with the AFC Champions League, are the tournaments reserved for only the top football clubs in Asia — the playground for the big boys.
In 2016, Kaya FC not only earned the right to compete in the AFC Cup, we progressed into the knockout round — a breakthrough achievement for Filipino football clubs at the time. After missing out in 2017, the club is eager to get back on the Asian stage.
A TALL TASK
Standing in the way of that goal, however, is non other than the recent AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal Champions, Ceres Negros. Earlier this year, the Bacolod powerhouse progressed further than any other South East Asian club in the AFC Cup, cementing their place as a bona fide force in Asia, never mind the Philippines.
With National Team standouts littered across their squad, and some of the most outstanding foreign players in the league at their disposal, Ceres Negros is a formidable adversary. Our head-to-head record against them this season emphasizes that. In four meetings, Ceres Negros holds three wins and one draw against Kaya Makati, making them the only team in the top four we are yet to defeat.
If we are to return to the Asian stage, and get a shot at being the first ever Philippine champions, we must overcome this tall task. Luckily, our club enjoys a good challenge.
HOW IT ALL GOES DOWN
PFL Finals Series Match Ups: (1)Meralco Manila vs. (4)Global Cebu || (2)Ceres Negros vs (3)Kaya FC–Makati.
The semifinals will take place on the next two weekends. For Kaya Makati, the first leg will be held at the University of Makati on Sunday, December 3, at 4pm. The second leg will be held in Panaad Stadium on December 9, at 7pm, with the Championship Match and Battle for Third taking place on December 16 (venue to be confirmed). Specific dates and kickoff times will be finalized today, so make sure to check back here, or on all our social media accounts to get the official schedule of games.