Challenge Cup: A chance for Premier League redemption & silverware

Nicolas Anil deciphers the format of the Challenge Cup in Malaysia and how it will benefit the eight competing teams.

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The Malaysia Football League have created a new tournament called the Challenge Cup that will run concurrently with the Malaysia Cup from the first week of August. While some may see it as a loser’s competition that pits teams who failed to qualify for the Malaysia Cup, the Challenge Cup could be just the challenge some of these clubs need at this stage of the season.

Silverware opportunity for Premier League teams

The Challenge Cup will be made up mainly of Premier League representation. Six teams from the second division (6th-11th in the Premier League) will make up this tournament, along with the bottom placed team from the Malaysia Super League. A wildcard invitation would also most likely consist of a Premier League team to replace Kuantan FA. Past years have seen the most of the second division outfits neglected while the Malaysia Cup is taking place. Only five teams from the Premier League make the Malaysia Cup, leaving the rest to watch in envy. Now they have a own competition to try and win.

Maintaining the teams competitive edge

In total, there will be 29 matches in the Challenge Cup. Eight teams will be split into the two groups of four, and every team will play six matches (home and away). The top two from each group will qualify for the two-legged semifinals, followed by the final. One of the reasons of this tournament is to maintain the players competitive edge. In previous years, the Malaysia Cup was held simultaneously with the league, which meant the teams who had missed out on the Malaysia Cup still had the league to contend in. But the mindset of completing the league fixtures and preparing for a brand new Cup tournament is completely different. This eight teams should be fired up to give everything to try and win this tournament.

Clubs can analyse players to trim the fat

This tournament also marks the final stretch of the Malaysia domestic season, which means every club will already be analysing every player within their ranks. The Challenge Cup will be the ideal platform to gauge which player deserves to be in the squad for next season, and who must leave. This especially applies to the foreign players, who are judged with every match. If the competing teams want to be ruthless, every player has between six to nine matches to impress or risk being expelled.  This tournament also gives the management a longer grace period to decide on their players, instead of making a decision during the off season where it can be too late sometimes. The onus is on the competing players to make a lasting impression in this Challenge Cup.

Photos: FMLLP