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Regional League off in to its sixth season

Regional League Regional League Cups

The Regional League trophy's
Bild: thai-fussball.com

Three weeks ago the Regional League has seen its kick off to the new season and will last until December including the play-offs. Not many things have changed compared to the last season.

With the opening match between Phrae United and Sukhothai FC, mid February, Thailand's third division started into its new, and sixth season. Compared to the 2013 season, the number of participant teams went down by one from 84 to 83. Not anymore or not once more part of the league is Lopburi, Yasothon, the unsuccessful Laem Chabang and astonishing-wise - Kasetsart FC. The university team from Bangkok had started to build a new stand and just missed promotion to Thailand's Division 1 eventually in the play-offs. In reverse, Hat Yai is making a return after an one year break. The promoted teams from the Khǒr Royal Cup, an amateur competition, and with it for the first time in Division 2 are: Bangkok JW University and Ratchapruek College.

Like in 2013 the Regional League is split in to six divisions. But they are more balanced in number now. With Chiang Mai FC and Phitsanulok FC, who both got promoted, the Northern zone reduced itself automatically. Roi Et United got promoted from the North-East and Yasothon United is not participating this year. Merely in the South 13 teams have entered the 2014 season with Prachuap FC had to move in from Central-West. The responsible persons of Prachuap are not really excited about this forced move because it means longer distances to travel and considerably higher expenses for the club. Although there are a few small changes in the Bangkok zone, as well as in the Central-West and Central-East, however they are of no consequence.

As well as in recent years, the climax of the season will be marked by the play-offs to the Thai Divison 1, taking place after the regular season throughout November and December. The two top teams of each zone is qualified respectively. As promised by Worawi Makudi before the Thai FA election, public funds from the Sport Authority of Thailand, which is subordinated to the Sports Ministry and Tourism Ministry, could be increased.

Thus every team is supported with 3 million Baht with funds from the ministry. There, one is confident that jobs will be created and that the tourism sector could benefit from travelling fans. In addition every club receives 1 million Baht from the broadcasting revenue with live broadcast every weekend delivered to your home by Siam Sport and SMM-TV. A one million Baht cheque is waiting for the winner of each zone by the end of the year.

For the first time this year there are monthly awards for players and coaches. The annual winners receive a trip to a game of - what else could it be - the English Premier League.

Primarily the teams of last year's play-off round are among the favorites to win their leagues. Maybe except for Look E-san. In the North, Sukhothai FC is the top favorite and has signed eight players from Kasetsart FC including former Pattaya United player Arlindo. Phichit and Nakhon Sawan always played a major role in recent years but both could never burst through the dominance of Chiang Mai and Phitsanulok. With the two now playing in Division 1, we could see an exciting fight for the runner-up where also Phrae and Phayao could have some say.

In the North-East, Ubon Ratchathani followed by Udon Thani and Surin are the sides who should battle for winning the Division. Latter have hit the headlines, when it was announced that Thai Premier League club Buriram United is going to sponsor the club. For the amount of 10 million Baht, the players of Surin have to wear Buriram United's club crest on their jersey, several times larger than their own one. Beside some players, the current Thai champion has also sent some coaching stuff to the neighboring province and installed a Spanish youth coach.

Despite finishing 11 points behind play-off places, Nong Kai FT played a really good season the last year and it remains to be seen whether they can do one or two better in 2014. Always a constant in the North-East has been Loei City in the past. But since missing promotion in the play-offs in three consecutive years (2009-2011), the club took a down slide and with less means one might miss out them once again.

Last year we have seen an exciting final battle between Paknampho, Kasetsart, Bangkok Christian College and Customs United in the Bangkok zone. The role of the hot favorite might fall to Paknampho NSRU this season with Kasetsart taking a sabbatical, as already mentioned. Bangkok Christian has entered a cooperation with BEC Tero. Whether it is of use , we will see. The collaboration between BEC-Tero and with RBAC was not really fruitful for both sides. Muang Thong has renewed his support in Assumption Thonburi which have renamed themselves to Thonburi United. The two teams to watch out are North Bangkok, which might challenge the top after two drought years and also Thai Honda wants to make a return to Division One with now spending its thrid year in the Regional League.

The possibly lightest or weakest Division is the Central East. Real favorites are hardly to identify after Muang Thong and Police United have withdrawn their support from the two play-off participants Nakhon Nayok and Look E-san. Both sides were some kind of farm teams for the two TPL clubs. Look E-San lost a few players to Police United and other teams, and moved to the Kaeng Khoi District in Saraburi hopefully finding an own identity. Beside relegated TG Rayong, Chanthaburi and Sa Keao (with David Le Bras) are among the extended circle of play-off candidates.

In contrast to the Central East zone, there are several teams In Central West who can be tagged as favorites. With Look Tabfah leading all the way with an announced 40 Mio. Baht budget. What is equal to a budget of a very decent Division One side. Moreover, the club wants to build his own stadium, because currently the club must share the stadium with the Air Force. (Futera) Seeker FC, Raj Pracha, Petchaburi and Samut Sakhon could be other possible canditates to top the league.

In recent years, teams form the South were considered much weaker than the rest. But this might change soon. Some clubs have start to invest in their infrastructure, e.g., new stadiums and better training facilities.

Narathiwat and Prachuap which took part in the promotion round last season, are the favorits to name here. Chumphon FC who missed the play-offs in the qualification game against Sukhothai FC could secure the service of experienced striker Miroslav Toth. Phatthalung played already Thailand's seond tier in 2012 where Phangnga and Trang want to make an appearance as well. Pattani faced a lot of difficulties last season and want to tie on their performances of 2012.
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