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The wildest race for second

By Ivan Saldajeno

THE UFL champion has already been crowned, but the season is not yet done. In fact, the wild battle is actually for the runner-up honor, which has some implications for the AFC Cup (more on that later).

It may sound awkward, but the battle for silver was more keenly watched by the football fans especially when Ceres pulled away early on.

Three clubs are close to each other in the standings entering the third-to-the-last day of the season, which happens to be Matchday 17 (or 18 if you want to count Army's departure from the league as automatic forfeiture wins) for them. Another club has two more matches left in its schedule.

As Global, Loyola, and Kaya close their respective season campaigns on Saturday and Stallion plays in the last two playdates (Sunday and Wednesday), who will end Wednesday as the runner-up to Ceres?

Here are the preliminaries:

First, the significance of being second: the UFL Cup champion, which will be determined as early as late August, will book a place in the AFC Cup qualifier. However, if (and only if) Ceres, which by virtue of winning the league gets an outright berth to the said continental tournament's group stages, also wins the Cup, the league's runner-up will clinch the qualifying match berth.

The current standings:

Global: 32 points with +33 GD
Loyola: 32 points with +16 GD
Kaya: 31 points with +26 GD
Stallion: 28 with +11 GD (two matches at hand)

If you've been following me on Twitter (@IvanSaldajeno), you should have bumped at my "magic numbers" for each club to take second. It's the sum of the points each team needs in its match and the points the other clubs should waste (e.g., if Team A only draws, it will only get one point out of a maximum three given for a win, which means two points were wasted). However, Kaya and Global will face off in the 7:45 p.m. game, so that match, Loyola's curtain-raiser against Green Archers at 5:15 p.m., and, thanks to a review of the league table, Stallion's matches matter. As per the last phrase in the previous sentence, I overlooked Stallion in the magic numbers (more later). For the recap of my tweets, here they are again:

I need to clarify something about Global's magic number because of an overlooked scenario. Global actually needs the full three points, i.e. a win, against Kaya to finish second regardless of the Loyola-GAU result. Global, however can finish second with a draw if Loyola fails to beat GAU (either draw or loss). The other scenario where Global can "get" three points, which is a Loyola loss that would mean three wasted points for the latter, will mean nothing to Global if it loses to Kaya (more later).

On the other hand, Loyola's magic number is five, i.e. a win against GAU and at least a Global draw to Kaya (that's two or three points wasted by Global, which will sum up with Loyola's three points to five or six), to finish second.

Five is also the magic number for Kaya, which needs to hope that GAU pull off an upset result against Loyola (draw or win) and pull a repeat of its first round win against Global.

I failed to talk about Stallion in my tweets, but the team actually still has a slim chance of stealing second thanks to the fact that it has two matches at hand after Saturday (Ceres on Sunday and Pachanga on Wednesday). But Stallion must beat both Ceres and Pachanga and that Global, Kaya, and Loyola fail to win on Saturday. Virtually speaking, Stallion's magic number is ten.

To summarize:

a. If Global wins, Global will finish second regardless of the Loyola-GAU and Stallion's results.
b. If Loyola fails to win (i.e. the club draws or loses), Global draws, and Stallion fails to win twice (i.e. Stallion only wins at most once), Global will finish second.
c. If Loyola wins and Global fails to win, Loyola will finish second regardless of Stallion's matches.
d. If Loyola fails to win, Kaya wins, and Stallion fails to win twice, Kaya will finish second.
e. If Loyola, Global, and Kaya fail to win and Stallion wins twice, Stallion will finish second

Some ridiculous corollaries:

f. Loyola can steal second place from Global with a victory even if Scenario A happens. However, the difference of Loyola and Global's winning margins should be at least 17. So Loyola might need to score 18 or more goals. The most number of goals GAU's Paolo Pascual conceded in one match this season? Only three.

g. A mash-up of Scenarios D and E: Stallion can steal second place with the prerequisite of E without the other clubs' results even if it ties Kaya as per D sans the Stallion outcome. However, the difference of Stallion and Kaya's winning margin must be no less than 15. It means Stallion must make at least 16 goals. The problem: Stallion is sixth in offense with 32 goals (or 35 if you really want to count the automatic 3-0 forfeiture win against Army which the league decided not to do so) or an average of 2.1 (2.2) goals per match. Meaning, Stallion might need to make two goals eight times as fast as usual.

Conclusion: A Loyola win will knock Kaya and Stallion out of the race for second. That said, Stallion has a toughest situation for the team to finish second because it needs a "miraculous" final week. Global only needs a win to finish second without thinking about the implications the Loyola-GAU and Stallion's games will bring. Whatever happens, however, all of them must still need to slug it out in the UFL Cup playoffs, which will start right after Aug. 5, to fully assure themselves a shot at AFC Cup glory.