MANILA, Philippines?With a couple of national team standouts and stars from the UAAP bannering its campaign, National Capital Region-A looms as a favorite in the PFF Suzuki Under-23 National Cup at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod and the University of the Philippines pitch in Los Baños, Laguna, from May 6 to 10.
NCR-A has been drawn in a tricky group that includes Visayas champion Negros Occidental, Mindanao titlist Davao and Luzon qualifier Masbate that will play in Panaad.
NCR is actually fielding two teams with its ?B? squad seeing action in another group playing in Los Baños against Visayas runnerup Iloilo, Laguna and Dipolog.
The top two teams from each group will advance to the crossover semifinals on May 15 and 16 in Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo.
National players David Basa and Yannick Tuason spearhead NCR-A along with UAAP Most Valuable Player Stephen Permanes and best defender Deo Segunial of the UP.
But one of the stars of UP?s run to the title, striker Jinggoy Valmayor, will not be seeing action in the tournament for academic reasons.
Still, NCR-A, which will be coached by La Salle?s Hans Smit and FEU?s Rodolfo Alicante, has plenty of firepower with Negros Occidental-born standouts Ryan Lerio and Gerard Pacquiao also in the squad.
The bulk of the NCR-B squad will come from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.
The PFF is using the tournament to search for more players who may be included in the Under-23 side seeing action in the Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia late this year.