The race to play in the Jupiler Pro League
The second division in Belgium, known as the Belgacom League for sponsorship reasons, is often overlooked. Benefoot.net has decided to change that a little and provide an overview of the teams battling for both the championship and promotion this season. As a quick reminder, the champions win automatic promotion to the Jupiler Pro League, at the expense of the side who lose Play-Off 3. The second promotion spot is decided by, you guessed it, another series of play-offs. The winner of PO3 goes into another group stage with three sides from the Belgacom League, according to the best side over each third of the season. If that team happens also to be the champions, then the next highest side in the overall standings qualifies.
KV Oostende are in pole-position with a seven point lead atop the standings. With just four games to play, only a dramatic collapse would prevent them from returning to the top division for the first time since 2004-05. De Kustjongens have already seen one of their best players sign a contract to this season’s surprise package in the Pro League Zulte-Waregem. Attacker Laurent Depoitre, who signed a contract for three and a half seasons, has scored 14 goals in the league this season. Other well known players at Oostende include Niçaise Kudimbana, Mahamadou Dissa and Jamaïque Vandamme.
Royal Mouscron Péruwelz, a merger of Péruwelz and Royal Mouscron, are having a superb last three seasons. After two successive promotions, they could well achieve a third via the play-offs. What is the secret to their sudden success? The team from Hainaut are owned by Ligue 1 side Lille, from just over the Belgian-French border. Les Dogues send their young players to RMP to give them playing time, while Lille can also have their pick from RMP’s finest. Whether it be next season or not, it seems only a matter of time before top-flight football returns to Le Canonnier in Mouscron, after the demise of Excelsior Mouscron in 2009, a club who had reached two Belgian cup finals and produced the likes of Jonathan Blondel and Maxime Lestienne.
The third contender is probably the best known team, having won the Belgian Cup in 2001 and played in Europe. Westerlo only got relegated last season from the Jupiler Pro League. Thanks to their professional status and the parachute payment of €1 million that every relegated team from the top division receives, they can start to dream of an immediate return. Westerlo have a healthy mix of youth and experience. Bart Goor and Oleg Iachtchouk are the two most seasoned profesionals but certainly not the only players who already played in the Jupiler Pro League. Gnohéré, Corstjens, Owusu, Cordier and other former 1st division players all play at Westel.
Westerlo are probably the most complete team of the three above but KV Oostende’s formidable home record (12 wins and 3 draws from 15) will almost certainly take them up. It looks like Beerschot, Westerlo and RMP will battle for the last ticket. Westerlo and Beerschot are the favourites here but it would be nice to have another side from French-speaking Belgium to join Standard Liège, Charleroi and Mons.
Two outsiders for the play-offs are Sint-Truiden and White Star Woluwe. Relegated from the Pro League last season, they began the season as one of the favourites and though they suffered a blow when Reza joined Standard in January, they remain in contention. White Star Woluwe are already assured of a place in the play-offs, having set the pace earlier in the season but they have to cope with some big financial problems. Despite a season, in which they have performed above expectations, raising hopes of a second side from Brussels in the big time, the Pro League would likely be extremely reluctant to award White Star a licence for next season.
|2.||Royal Mouscron Péruwelz||30||17||7||6||58|
|5.||White Star Woluwe||29||14||8||7||50|