Photo from PFL

The Copa Paulino Alcantara is set for a March 14 kickoff with a seven-team field that will run for two months at the PFF National Training Centre in Carmona, Cavite.

Defending champion Kaya-Iloilo leads the cast that also includes runner-up Azkals Development Team, podium finisher Stallion-Laguna and returning United City FC.

Dynamic Herb Cebu, Mendiola FC 1991 and Maharlika FC, which also skipped last year’s edition, are also seeing action in the annual cup competition.

Kaya opens its title defense against Maharlika before United City battles ADT to open the tournament that will implement a single-round format.

The four best teams at the end of the eliminations advance to the knockout stage with the semis slated May 16 and the final on May 23.

A press release posted on the Philippines Football League website said it will implement a closed-circuit format that was approved by the Games and Amusements Board.

The league added that a “stop and go scenario” would be observed in the event the alert level status is raised in Carmona.

Kaya ruled the two-week Copa held last November in Carmona that was reduced to just five clubs after the last-minute pullout of United City.

It also gave Kaya a spot in this year’s preliminary round of the AFC Champions League and a direct berth in the AFC Cup in the event it fails to get past the qualifying stages.

Chances are high of a repeat for Kaya after signing former ADT players Jarvey Gayoso, Sandro Reyes, Oskari Kekkonen and Mar Diano, prodigal son Robert Lopez Mendy and Jesse Curran.

United City is making its return to domestic duties after last year’s withdrawal while ADT will attempt to make a good impression despite losing its core players.

Stallion attempts to rebound from falling short of making the final, losing to ADT in the semis, Cebu seeks an improved showing after a solid debut even as Mendiola tries to rebound after a dismal performance in the group stage.

Maharlika, meanwhile, was last seen in the shortened Philippines Football League season in Nov. 2020.

Source: Manila Bulletin (