Asian football

Kaya FC bows out of AFC Champions League; Stallion, Cebu exit AFC Cup

Juro Morilla

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Kaya FC bows out of AFC Champions League; Stallion, Cebu exit AFC Cup

BATTLE. Stallion Laguna FC in action in the 2023 AFC Cup.

Mia Montayre/Stallion Laguna FC

Philippine clubs Kaya FC, Stallion Laguna FC, and Dynamic Herb Cebu FC all get the boot in their respective AFC tournaments

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines’ three representatives in tournaments hosted by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) this season saw their respective campaigns cut short as they all suffered exits in the elimination round.

Kaya FC-Iloilo participated in the AFC Champions League for the third time in its history, but struggled to gain points once again in the group stage as it crashed out by placing dead last in Group G. 

Meanwhile, Dynamic Herb Cebu FC and Stallion Laguna FC both made their maiden appearances in the AFC Cup, although they also exited the group stage as they finished third and fourth in Groups F and G, respectively. 

Kaya FC-Iloilo

Entering its third campaign in the continent’s most prestigious club football competition, Kaya FC was drawn in a competitive Group G as it was bunched with Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos, China’s Shandong Taishan, and South Korea’s Incheon United. 

The Iloilo-based squad closed out its Champions League season with a 3-1 loss to Incheon on Wednesday, December 13, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Kaya FC, which qualified for this year’s Champions League by claiming the 2022-2023 Philippine Football League (PFL) title, lost all six of its games in the group stage ended its Group G run with 0 points and a -17 goal difference.

Stallion Laguna FC

After finishing third in the PFL, Stallion earned a spot in the AFC Cup for the first time in history, but just like Kaya FC, the Laguna-based squad struggled in its group.

Stallion was bunched in Group G with Australia’s Central Coast Mariners, Malaysia’s Terengganu FC, and Indonesia’s Bali United FC and was able to accumulate 1 point and a -18 goal difference.

Its lone point in the tournament came from a 2-2 away draw against Terengganu on October 26, while Stallion’s sixth and final match ended in a 3-0 defeat to Central Coast on Wednesday at the Biñan Football Stadium. 

Dynamic Herb Cebu FC

Following a runner-up finish in the PFL, Cebu FC also qualified for AFC Cup for the first time in club history and performed slightly better than Stallion as it placed third in Group F with 4 points and a -15 goal difference.

Grouped with Australia’s Macarthur FC, Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Crown FC, and Myanmar’s Shan United FC, Cebu FC netted one win and one draw in six matches. 

The Cebu-based squad went unbeaten against Shan United, posting a 1-0 home victory courtesy of a Ken Murayama winner at the 29th minute and figuring in a 1-1 stalemate on the road.

Cebu FC wrapped up its AFC Cup bid with a 0-3 loss to Macarthur on Thursday, December 14, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Looking ahead

Changes will be made for the AFC club tournaments next season as the AFC Champions League will be rebranded as AFC Champions League Elite, while the AFC Cup will be replaced by the AFC Champions League 2. 

Meanwhile, a third-tier club football tournament will be introduced next season as the AFC Challenge Cup will make its inaugural season.

Currently, there are no spots allotted for clubs from the Philippines in the Champions League Elite, but a couple of slots are available for the Champions League 2. 

A team will be awarded a direct qualification for the Champions League 2 by ruling the 2024 PFL tournament, while a qualifying play-off ticket will be given to the 2023 Copa Paulino Alcantara winners. 

Based on those two conditions, Kaya FC is already guaranteed at least a qualifying play-off ticket following its triumphant campaign in the recently concluded Copa Paulino Alcantara. 

However, if Kaya FC also captures the PFL crown next year, it will receive a direct qualification to the group stage and avoid participating in the qualifying play-off. 

The PFL runner-up will then take Kaya FC’s spot in the qualifying phase and have the opportunity to lock up a place in the Champions League 2 group stage. 

The loser of the Champions League 2 qualifying play-off will not return home empty handed as it will pocket an automatic slot in the group stage of the Challenge Cup. –

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