The National First Division (NFD) is arguably the toughest league in the country, with most sides being equally starved of cash and desperate for the step-up in revenue. It has not been renamed the GladAfrica Championship.
While the PSL (see all PSL predictions) sides get a monthly stipend of almost 2 million rand, the GladAfrica Championship sides get only 10% of that amount. The travel costs and player budgets far exceed that stipend and most club owners dip into their own cash reserves to keep the side afloat and gunning for the title.
The NFD results are often hard to predict as most teams are capable of winning on any given Saturday. The results often favour the home side though, as most sides cannot fly their players to games, and they spend many hours in a bus traveling a day ahead of a match and leaving that same night.
Highlands Park, once a regular feature in the Apartheid NPSL, is trying to resurrect some of their glory days and finished top of the pile and earned PSL status.
The side will be joined by Black Leopards in the PSL after winning the play-ff mini-league at the culmination of the season.
Black Leopards spent many years in the PSL but have now only managed to join the elite once more.
Mthatha Bucks were relegated to the Vodacom League (third tier) after finishing last on the log last season. The stipend for the Vodacom League is significantly lower – R75 000 – a month, and most teams struggle to make the leap to the NFD after losing their status. The Vodacom League is made up of 11 separate leagues, with the winners going to a do-or-die play-off league.
With limited television exposure and sponsorship, the league struggles to get much attention and apart from a few good runs in the Nedbank Cup, are seldom on the minds of SA soccer supporters.
That said, the matches are hard-fought and played at a much faster pace than the PSL and this makes for frenetic and hard-to-predict football.