DIRECTV W Connection's attempt to end a decade-long drought in the T&T Football Federation FA Trophy will begin with a tough preliminary round clash with T&T Pro League rivals North East Stars at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, from 6 pm today.
Based on the random draw format, the three-time (1999, 2000 & 2002) winner W Connection, and Stars, champions in 2003, joined six other clubs in the first round.
However, both teams were unfortunately drawn to face each other in the opening round this afternoon and will more than likely field weakened line-ups due to the unavailabilty of key players who were named in the T&T?Soca Warriors squad for the Digicel Caribbean Cup finals which kicks off in Antigua & Barbuda on Friday (See Page).
Stars and W?Connection also enter the match in contrasting form with the Sangre Grande-based club beating Stokely Vale 4-2 after a 1-1 draw in their Toyota Classic semifinal while the "Savonetta Boys" were crushed 3-0 by Defence Force, both on Friday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo.
Other first round match-ups include Southern Football Association Petrotrin Super League champions Point Fortin Civic Centre at home to 2006 winners WASA from 3.30 pm at Mahaica Oval, Pt Fortin; Secondary Schools Football League National "Big-Five" and Central Zone champions Carapichaima East Secondary against Southern Football Association's Marabella Family Crisis Centre from 3.30 pm at Carapichaima and Eastern Football Association's La Horquetta SA against Police FC (Northern Football Association) from 5 pm at the La Horquetta Recreation Ground.
The four winners will move into the draw for the round-of-32 to be played on Wednesday December 12.
The round-of-16 will be played on December 19 before heading into the Christmas break with the tournament resuming on Wednesday January 9 with the quarterfinal round.
It's a second tournament running, a total of thirty-six (36) participating teams were selected for the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation run FA Trophy with four (4) teams coming in from the Secondary Schools Football League, hence the First Round which cuts the number of teams down to the Round of 32.
Since the formation of the Pro League in 2002, only one team outside the professional league has won the prestigious T&TFF FA Trophy when WASA FC of the Super League defeated North East Stars 4-2 on penalties following a 3-3 draw to lift the title in 2006 at Couva.
Now with the First Round in effect because of the increased number of participating teams, one of the tournament's top contenders (W Connection or North East Stars) will not make it through to the Round of 32.
Commenting on his team's chances to lift the title after a decade, W?Connection owner David John-Williams said, "We are capable of winning the FA. We are capable of winning any competition. We have reached six FA finals, winning it three times. It's now a situation where we are against North East Stars and must win to go on because it's a knockout tournament.
"The nature of the FA Trophy is that other teams are motivated, and while we want to win every competition, we must respect that other teams can play as well," ended the W Connection owner.
TT Pro League: Caledonia AIA, Defence Force, North East Stars, Police FC, St. Ann's Rangers, Central FC, T&TEC, W Connection
Super League: Stokely Vale, Eagles United, WASA FC, Joe Public, FC Santa Rosa, Westside Superstarz
Eastern Football Association (EFA): Malabar FC, La Horquetta SA, Joe Public
Southern Football Association (SFA): Point Fortin Civic Centre, OJ's Soldado, Marabella Family Crisis Centre
Eastern Counties Football Union (ECFU): Guaya United FC, Mathura United and Valencia Lions Youths
Northern Football Association (NFA): QPCC, Police FC, Petit Valley United
Central Football Association (CFA): Cunupia FC, Edinburgh 500, Enterprise Youth FC
Tobago Football Association (TFA): Roxborough Lakers, Hills United, Youth Stars
Secondary School Football League (SSFL): St Anthony's College, Carapichaima East, Presentation College San Fernando, Scarborough
T&TFF FA?Trophy competition:
Point Fortin Civic Centre vs WASA FC, Mahaica Oval, Pt Fortin, 3.30 pm
Carapichaima East vs Marabella Family CC, Carapichaima East Sec. Grd, 3.30 pm
La Horquetta S.A. vs Police (NFA), La Horquetta Rec. Grd, 5 pm
W Connection vs North East Stars, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, 6 pm