Reigning Champions Boeung Ket Angkor kick-start the 2017 Metfone C-League campaign on Saturday at the Olympic Stadium with a key matchup against last season’s runners-up National Defence Ministry.
In a thrilling climax to the 2016 season, Boeung Ket nosed out the Armymen by a solitary point in the double round league format among 10 teams.
That field has now been expanded to 12 teams with the winners of the Cambodian League 2, Kirivong Sok Sen Chey, and runners-up Electricite du Cambodge (EDC) making the top-flight grade.
The season goes down as the longest on record, stretching all the way to the December 2 grand final, which follows a modified playoff from November 18-25 involving the four teams that finish top of the heap at the end of the league phase.
There will be two long breaks to make room for the national team’s preparations for Asian Cup third-round group matches at the end of next month and also August’s SEA Games in Malaysia.
According to Football Federation of Cambodia’s spokesman May Tola, the newly formed Competition Committee came up with the idea of reintroducing the playoffs in a slightly different form than before.
Instead of being a straight-up semifinal playoff between the top four teams at the end of the league, the first playoff will be between the fourth and third placed teams, with the winners tackling second to earn the right to challenge the table toppers for the title.
There is no change in the quota allowed for registration of foreign players. Clubs are only allowed to register five foreigners per season, one of whom must be an Asian, and only three of them can be on the game sheet in each game.
A notable feature this season is that several clubs have their own grounds to hold their home games.
Cambodian Tiger have chosen Siem Reap as their base, while Kirivong Sok Sen Chey, back in the top flight after a season’s break, will play their home matches in the renovated Takeo facility.
Cambodian Mines Action Center will entertain fans in Kampong Chhnang, while freshly promoted Electricite du Cambodge are expected to move to their newly built arena on the outskirts of Phnom Penh some time in the second half of the season.
The 12 teams taking part in this season’s premier league are: Asia Europe United, Boeung Ket Angkor, Cambodian Tiger, CMAC United, Electricite du Cambodge, Kirivong Sok Sen Chey, NagaWorld, the Ministry of National Defence, the National Police Commissary, Phnom Penh Crown, Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng and Western Phnom Penh.
Meanwhile, the FFC has confirmed an international friendly with India on March 22 at the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Pehn ahead of Cambodia’s away clash against Jordan on March 28 in the Asian Cup third-round qualifiers.