From unprecedented treble to record-extending 34th title, what's really at stake for Malaysia Cup's final four?

JDT continue treble quest as Bergson bags hat-trick in dominant win (2:08)

Johor Darul Ta'zim remain on course for a treble after a Bergson da Silva hat-trick helped them complete a dominant win over Kelantan in the Malaysia Cup quarterfinals. (2:08)

Just over a fortnight after this year's Malaysia Cup got underway, the tournament is down to four remaining contenders.

And there are hardly any real surprises.

After all, Johor Darul Ta'zim, Terengganu and Sabah finished the Malaysia Super League season situated in first to third spot respectively, while Selangor -- no slouches themselves in fifth -- also happen to be the Malaysia Cup's most successful team with a staggering 33 titles to their names.

When the semifinals get underway on Nov. 15, there will be no shortage of motivation for each of these clubs to take one step closer to glory by reaching the final -- but there much more could be on the line than just ensuring they finish 2022 with silverware.

Here, we look at what is truly at stake for the quartet.

An unprecented treble awaits the kings of Malaysia

For all their recent domination of Malaysian football, having won nine consecutive league titles since 2014, JDT are yet to taste the treble.

Most recently, they have been denied by circumstances beyond their control with both cup competitions cancelled in the COVID-affected 2020 while the Malaysia FA Cup was also not held last year, although the Southern Tigers ultimately lost the Malaysia Cup final to Kuala Lumpur City.

It is clearly not that simple a feat given it has only been achieved thrice previously in the 28 years since Malaysian football started to have three separate top-level competitions: the famed Kedah side of 2007-08 did it in back-to-back seasons, while Kelantan achieved it in 2012.

Yet, given how JDT are clearly miles ahead of the rest of the competition -- having won this year's league title with 12 points to spare -- a treble is surely a must for them to emphasise just how all-conquering they have been.

Rising force can make a statement

Since former Malaysia coach Ong Kim Swee took charge of Sabah, the previously-unfancied outfit have made a rapid rise up the ranks.

While they have conquered the Malaysian league before way back in 1995, they have also spent their fair share of years in the doldrums in the not-too-distant past.

After finding themselves battling relegation in the past two years, Sabah were able to celebrate a third-place finish in the MSL this season after a massive transformation under Ong saw the Rhinos lured established names such as Baddrol Bakhtiar and Khairul Fahmi to the Likas Stadium.

They do have it all to do given the luck of the draw has pitted them against JDT in the semis, and even a semifinal finish to go along with their performance in the league would make for an excellent year's work.

But what a statement it would be if they could oust JDT -- who they lost twice to in the MSL this term -- on their way to a first Malaysia Cup final appearance since 2003.

A record-extending 34th Malaysia Cup crown

Having won their 32nd Malaysia Cup title in 2005, a subsequent drought eventually led to the birth of Selangor's 'Misi 33' -- or Mission 33 -- that was eventually accomplished a decade later in 2015.

Given that triumph was not too long ago, 'Misi 34' is not really a thing yet but that is exactly what Selangor are gunning for: a record-extending 34th Malaysia Cup crown.

As one of Malaysian football's traditional powerhouses, the Red Giants have not exactly enjoyed the best of times in recent seasons with their last taste of silverware being that triumph seven years ago, while they have achieved just one top-three finish in the league since 2016.

Given their rich history in the tournament, and the fact that the form book often goes out the window in cup competitions, Selangor have every reason to believe they can see off Terengganu and keep alive their mission for No. 34.

Setting the stage for greater things

Terengganu are an interesting proposition.

They are one of Malaysian football's old guard and are consistently contending for trophies without ever having really established themselves as a dominant force, with a Malaysia Cup in 2001, two FA Cups in 2000 and 2011, as well as four runners-up finishes in the league their claims to fame.

Nonetheless, two of those creditable second-place finishes have come in the past six years when JDT have swept aside all that stood in their way -- meaning the Turtles were effectively the best of the rest in those seasons.

They are a competitive side that have hit a rich vein of form in the second half of 2022, with Sunday's quarterfinal second leg win in the Malaysia Cup -- against defending champions KL City, no less -- taking their winning streak in all competition, excluding an FA Cup final loss to JDT, to 13 victories.

The foundation is there for Terengganu to take the next step. Perhaps the catalyst will be lifting the Malaysia Cup this season.