By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

THE DOMESTIC football cup competition Copa Paulino Alcantara kicks off its second edition this weekend with a double-header set at the Aboitiz Pitch in Lipa City, Batangas.

Defending Cup champion Kaya FC-Iloilo opens the proceedings as it takes on tournament-debuting Philippine Air Force FC in the scheduled 4 p.m. match on Saturday, Oct. 26, with three-time Philippines Football League champion Ceres-Negros FC beginning its campaign versus Mendiola FC 1991 at 7 p.m.

Named after Filipino-Spanish football great Paulino Alcantara who played for FC Barcelona, this year’s staging of the Cup has seven teams competing, including the Philippine U22 team set to see action in the 30th Southeast Asia Games later this year here as guest squad.

The teams were divided into two groups with Ceres heading Group A along with Green Archers United FC, Mendiola and the U22 squad while Kaya is in Group B, joined by Air Force and Stallion Laguna FC.

Tournament format has the teams meeting their group mates once with the top two teams advancing to the semifinals with the group winners facing the runner-up teams from the other group. The higher seeded teams will host the one-off semifinals. The final will consist of a single match as well.

For the Philippine U22 team, it is using the Cup tournament as an opportunity to help it in its preparation for the SEA Games which the country is hosting from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.

“As host of the SEA Games we cannot go there and compete not prepared. We have been training since August, bringing some 50 players from different parts of the country and trimming it down to 20 players as per regulation,” said national team manager Dan Palami.

“This (Copa) will give us a great exposure. Here we get to play against strong teams like Ceres which will be good for the boys. Hopefully we get to play Kaya and Stallion, too, if we move past the first round,” Mr. Palami added.

The nationals begin their SEA Games campaign in Group A, lumped in the grouping along with 2017 SEA Games runner-up Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Timor-Leste while in Group B are reigning champion Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore and Brunei.

The Copa Paulino Alcantara will be shown livestream over and on Facebook live (Philippines only).

The tournament runs until Nov. 16.