The Hun Sen Cup begins in under a month. It's the pre-season warm-up competition ahead of the Metfone C-League for Khmer players only. It's the Cambodian version of the FA Cup. No foreigners are allowed to compete. And the minnows from the provinces get a chance to rub shoulders with the big boys. Though this time around, fewer minnows will get that opportunity. It starts on 7 January with representative and club teams from the provinces fighting amongst themselves in five regional qualifying mini-leagues. The winner of each region (north, south, east, west and central) and three best runners-up will advance to the group stage. That's when the top 8 C-League teams (including Phnom Penh Crown) will join the fray, alongwith the 8 provincial reps, in 4 groups of 4 teams. These Group stage matches will begin on 20 January and last for a couple of weeks, with all matches being played in Phnom Penh. Following that, we enter the final eight-club knock-out stage. For the record, last season's winners were Preah Khan Reach.
The 5 regional qualifying groups (with teams representing the named provinces) are as follows:
East: Boeung Ket - Kompong Cham (host), Prey Veng, Chhma Khmao - Svay Rieng, Western University - Phnom Penh.
Central: Baksey Chamkrong - Siem Reap (host), Univ of Management & Economics - Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Asia Europe Univ - Preah Vihear.
West: Kompong Chhnang (host), Battambang, Pailin.
North: Kratie (host), Mondulkiri, Mekong Kampuchea Univ - Ratanakiri, Stung Treng.
South: Koh Kong (host), Kampot, Kep.