A LONGER top-tier schedule and fiercer competition in the second division will mark the new United Football League season which kicks off on Saturday at the Emperador Stadium in Mckinley Hill.
Despite having one less club, the nine-team Division 1 will have more matches owing to the new triple-round format which gives squads 24 games each — from just 18 last season — and extends play, which usually ends in June, to one more month.
Stallion will be making its title defense, but will be hard-pressed against vastly improved squads Pachanga-Diliman and Green Archers United as well as perennial contenders Loyola Meralco — the reigning UFL Cup champion — Global, and Kaya.
Division 1 rookie Socceroo, the newly crowned Division 2 titlist, is also a threat, while Philippine Army, which barely escaped relegation last season, continues its fight for survival.
Nomads, the foreigner-laden club which finished eighth in the top tier last season, voluntarily dropped to Division 2 for being unable to comply with the recently-enforced foreigner cap rule, which requires squads to have at least six Filipinos on the pitch every time.
Nomads joins two new clubs in Ceres-La Salle — back-to-back National Club Champion — and Manila Jeepney, which both make their respective debuts in Division 2, which retains its double-round robin system.
A total of 12 teams are plying their trade in the lower tier, including Air Force, still the league’s most successful team which was relegated from the upper tier last year.