FOUR teams from Cebu are in the running to be part of the 26-team lineup for the second conference in the fast-rising Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL).

The league, founded by Sen. Manny Pacquiao, is expanding to 26 teams from only 10 in the inaugural conference that saw Batangas win the first title.

MPBL Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes told SunStar Cebu that Visayas and Mindanao backers showed their intent to join during a meeting with team owners and representatives in the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino yesterday.

“The expansion that we are doing right now (requires that) first, we hold a consultation with those who are interested. We gauge the capacity and the willingness of LGU (local government unit) and their partners to fully commit to the vision of Senator Pacquiao,” he said.

Prospective teams from Cebu City are those backed by M. Lhuillier; in Mandaue City, backed by International Pharmaceuticals Inc.; in Cebu Province, backed by Cebu Landmasters; and in Lapu-Lapu City, backed by Phoenix Petroleum.

“We have eight teams who showed intent. They’re from Cebu, Davao City, Bacolod, Davao Occidental, and Cagayan de Oro City,” said Zaldy Realubit, the MPBL basketball operations head.

Realubit added that there are already 20 teams from Luzon and they’re looking to add only six from Visayas and Mindanao areas for the next season, which will open on June 12.

Duremdes said that they’re careful with the team selection to avoid the mistakes from the former regional league, the now defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA).

“We are careful in accepting teams. We have to see to it that they’re capable of sustaining the team for at least two years. The teams should have the right funding because they’re playing mostly in Luzon,” he said.

The league will use the same format as the last conference, which is a single-round robin, with the eight advancing to the playoff round.

Duremdes described the growth of the league as a challenge, yet a manageable one.

“First it was 10 and now we’re looking at 26 teams. It’s a challenge, a challenge that we think we can manage since it’s only a matter of reorganizing and doing the right planning,” said Duremdes.

The deadline for the teams to confirm and complete their application will be on May 3.

Realubit added that the teams should have longevity and sustainability.

“Most of the games will be in Luzon. The teams from VisMin areas will get one game to host for now this season. If they make it to the playoffs it will be a home and awaysaid Realubit.

The organizers are planning to do the opening at the Araneta Coliseum, MOA Arena or Philippine Arena.

Duremdes said that the first season was overwhelming in terms of the response from the players and the fan base, and they’re looking to build on that next conference.

“Its a suprise na mao to kadako ang impact sa grassroots level in terms of players and fan base. We couldn’t imagine na ganun pala ka uhaw ang mga basketball fans natin sa province,” he said.