THE United Football League Cup shifts into higher gear as the knockout stage kicks off starting Tuesday at the Emperador Stadium in Mckinley Hill.
Sixteen out of the 23 teams have advanced from the group stage, each of which faces a win-or-go-home scenario.
“You can’t have a bad game,” Stallion coach Ernie Nierras, whose team – the defending champion -- finished second place in Group C and is seeded 10th, said on Friday during the press launch of the event.
High-scoring Loyola Meralco emerged the top seed, followed by Global, Kaya, Green Archers United, Ceres-La Salle, Union Internacionale Manila, Cebu Queen City United, and Forza.
The top eight teams battle one squad in the bottom half of the field, comprised of, in order, ninth seed Pachanga Diliman, Stallion, Agila, Manila Jeepney, Philippine Air Force, General Trias International, Philippine Navy, and Cimarron.
The respective seeding of (third) Kaya and (sixth) Union Internacionale Manila, though, can still be adjusted pending the outcome of their Group B match on Saturday.
It’s a consensus among coaches though, that it’s going to be a wide-open race.
“It’s anybody’s game,” said Nierras, whose team's title defense will be an uphill climb following the departure of several foreign standouts.
“It doesn’t seem that one team has more chance than the other,” Kaya coach David Perkovic, for his part, said.
The top-seeded Sparks, though, have had a chip on their shoulders after coming up short in previous competitions.
“We’re one of the hungriest teams,” Loyola ‘keeper Ref Cuaresma said.
The Round of 16 will have playdates each, with two games per day, at 5 and 7 p.m. respectively, and will be aired live on primetime on AksyonTV (on free TV: Channel 41 in Metro Manila, Channel 29 in Cebu and Davao; on cable: Channel 59 on SkyCable, Channel 78 on Destiny Cable, and Channel 1 on Cignal Digital TV).