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PFF-SMART Club Nationals Round of 16 set next week

PFF-SMART R16 Participants

On the morning of December 7, the same day as the press conference for the home leg of the Philippines against Singapore in the AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals, the office of the Philippine Football Federation in Pasig City was the venue for the draw of the PFF-SMART National Club Championship's Round of 16.

Witnessing the draw were representatives from some of participating teams, as well as SMART Sports executive Epok Quimpo. Cyril Dofitas from the PFF and Richie Gannaban handled the proceedings.

The 16 teams who made it this far came from eight different clusters as designated by the PFF (two from Luzon, four from Mindanao and one each for the Visayas and the National Capital Region), each of whom had their own qualification process.

The recently concluded UFL Cup formed the basis of qualification for the NCR Cluster, where the UFL teams that made the quarterfinals secured their berths to the competition, led by recently crowned UFL Cup champions Penson Stallion Gilligan's FC and this competition's defending champions and losing UFL Cup finalists Global FC (then competing under the name Teknika). In addition, the two best third place teams from the Group Stage, in Pasargad and Nomads, also secured their spots in the Round of 16, thus bringing the number of UFL sides to eleven.

The eleventh UFL side in the competition is Cebu Queen City United FC, who opted to not participate in the UFL Cup and went through the Visayan leg of the PFF-SMART Nationals instead. The UFL Division II side finished second to Ceres FC in their regional at San Carlos City. Completing the provincial sides are Flame United FC and Baguio United FC for Luzon, while Romgarjal FC (which is short for Romeo Garcia Jalosjos) of Zamboanga del Norte and M'lang FC will represent Mindanao.

Round of 16 rules have mandated that any UFL side drawing a provincial team will be mandated to travel to where the provincial team is based, except for Flame United. The Cavite-based side will play their match at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. The two match-ups involving the NCR cluster by itself will also have their matches at the said venue.

The draw yielded the following matchups:

Negros-based Ceres FC drew Stallion in what arguably could be the most interesting fixture in the Round of 16, and not just because the pride of the Ilonggos and the Negrenses are at stake. The winner would face the winner of the Nomads-Global FC matchup, thus setting up a possible UFL Cup final rematch in the PFF-SMART quarterfinals.

Cebu Queen City United drew Pachanga-Diliman FC for their matchup, a revival of their UFL Division 2 rivalry, with Pachanga earning the promotion into Division 1, now infused by players who played for Diliman that finished second ahead of CQCUFC. The winner of that matchup will face the winner between UFL Cup semifinalists Green Archers United, now boosted by the presence of current national team skipper Chieffy Caligdong, and Romgarjal FC.

The other purely NCR matchup will feature Pasargad and Army, whose winner will face the winner of the matchup between the lone northern Luzon representative Baguio United FC and impressive newcomer General Trias International FC.

The last quarterfinal pairing involves Flame United FC against Singapore Cup semifinalists Loyola Meralco Sparks and M'lang FC against Kaya FC. That M'lang-Kaya matchup will kick off the Round of 16 action as they play on January 9, 3pm at the South Cotabato Sports Complex in Koronodal. The rest of the matches will be played on January 12 or 13, as seen below.

January 12 matches:

General Trias International FC @ Baguio United FC: 3pm kickoff at the Benguet State University in La Trinidad.

Green Archers United FC @ Romgarjal FC: 3pm kickoff at the Jose Rizal Memorial State University in Dapitan.

Pachanga-Diliman FC @ Cebu Queen City United FC: 3pm kickoff at the Aboitiz Field in Cebu

Loyola Meralco Sparks FC @ Flame United FC: 4pm kickoff at Rizal Memorial Stadium

January 13 matches:

Penson Stallion Gilligan's FC @ Ceres FC: 3pm kickoff at Panaad Stadium in Bacolod

Pasargad FC vs Philippine Army FC: 4pm kickoff at Rizal Memorial Stadium

Nomads FC vs Global FC: 630pm kickoff at Rizal Memorial Stadium

The bracketing looks like this: