THE Philippine Football Federation will be on the lookout for candidates to the national pool as young players from across the country see action in the PFF-Suzuki 23-and-under National Cup’s regional qualifying round starting next month.
Teams representing Masbate, Laguna, and Baguio-Benguet emerged on top in Luzon and will see action in their region’s qualifiers set on April 8 to 13 at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños field in Laguna.
Defending champion Negros Occidental leads the cast of football associations that made it to the Visayas qualifiers, slated from April 15 to 20. The group also has Iloilo and Cebu.
The Mindanao cluster is composed of clubs from North Cotabato, Iligan-Lanao del Norte, Davao City, and Zamboanga Dipolog and will battle from April 22 to 27.
The top two teams from the double-round robin competition in each group will advance to the final qualifying round on May 20 to 25 in Cebu, which also hosts the semifinals and the finals later in the same month.
“The objective of this competition is to provide a pool of players for this year’s Southeast Asian Games,” PFF competitions committee chairman Cyril Dofitas said on Monday in the press launch of the event. “At this point, we already have assigned scouts for the probable players who will compose the national pool.”
The PFF official clarified that his staff is only in charge of the selection and scouting of the players for the national pool, which will be pruned down by the national teams committee headed by Azkals manager Dan Palami.
“The final decision for the composition of the national team will be in the hands of the national teams committee,” Dofitas said.
Football in the SEA Games is a 23-and-under competition and several Azkals mainstays including brothers Phil and James Younghusband are not eligible.
Suzuki Philippines president Satoshi Uchida renewed the automobile and motorcycle company’s support for the football development in the country.
“Suzuki is very committed to the development of local sports, especially football. We believe that through Cups like these, we are cultivating a new generation of Azkals—young football players that our country can be proud of.”