PETALING JAYA: More matches and more titles. Let the new chapter in the Malaysian Football League (MFL) begin.
It will be a busy year for MFL this year as there will be six trophies up for grabs – Charity Shield, Super League, FA Cup, Malaysia Cup, MFL Challenge Cup and MFL Cup (Under-23 Reserve League) and that means there will be more matches for the fans to enjoy.
Yesterday, MFL chief executive officer Stuart Ramalingam confirmed that the Super League will kick off on Feb 24 and will run until Dec 17. It will involve a total of 182 matches with the addition of 50 extra games compared to the 2022 season.
Instead of 12, there will now be 14 teams in the Super League, although it should have been 18 following the exits of Sarawak United, Melaka, Petaling Jaya City and UiTM for different reasons.
The MFL Challenge Cup will make a return after three years from Sept 18-Dec 6, where eight teams that do not qualify for the quarter-finals of the Malaysia Cup will play in the tournament.
In the Reserve League, the 14 Super League teams will field their Under-23 outfits together with the FAM-NSC Project Squad, thus, making it a 15-team competition.
Despite the challenges to start afresh, Stuart is excited with what the new calendar has to offer.
“This is a new chapter. A progressive year in terms of our football because we will now have more games and following. We have to move forward in terms of professionalism and commercial value,” said Stuart.
“We’ve made several positive changes to make our football better and hoping for a vibrant fan base support.”
The FA Cup period is from March to July, with the final held on July 22, while the Malaysia Cup will be held from Aug 3 to Dec 9.
The MFL have also decided that the Charity Shield will be part of the Super League and is considered the first game of the season.
Reigning league champions Johor Darul Ta’zim and runners-up Terengganu will face off at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium in Iskandar Puteri on Feb 24.
Another interesting part of the league is the kickoff times, with MFL deciding on three different slots.
In Peninsular Malaysia, the kickoff times will be 5.15pm or 5.30pm, 8.15pm and 9pm, while in Sabah and Sarawak, it will be 4.30pm or 4.45pm, 7.30pm and 8.15pm.
During the month of Ramadan, the kickoff in the peninsular will be 10pm, while Sabah and Sarawak will be 9.15pm.
“The early kickoff times are designed to boost the atmosphere at the venues and create a new and more dynamic experience for supporters,” said Stuart.
The calendar for the 2023 season also took into consideration the assignments and matches involving the national team for the year – so that there will not be a clash of interest.