Kashima Antlers, FC Seoul and Wellington Phoenix complete HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens line-up

Kashima Antlers in 2016. Photo by Li Man Yuen / Power Sport Images

Japan’s Kashima Antlers, South Korea’s FC Seoul and New Zealand’s Wellington Phoenix will return to the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens this year to complete the line-up for the May 26-28 event at Hong Kong Football Club.

J.League side Kashima reached the quarter-finals last year, while both K-League Classic team FC Seoul and A-League outfit Wellington progressed to the semi-finals.

French Ligue 1 club Marseille, German Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen and Italian Serie A outfit Cagliari have already been confirmed for the tournament along with Scotland’s Rangers, defending Cup champions Aston Villa, West Ham United and Leicester City in what is the most diverse line-up in the annual tournament’s 19-year history.

“It’s important for us that we have strong representation from Asia,” said Tournament Director Chris Plowman.

“We were very impressed with both FC Seoul and Kashima Antlers last year so we look forward to seeing them again, along with Wellington Phoenix who performed so well last year in their second appearance.”

J.League side Kashima were impressive in 2016 after reaching the last eight before elimination at the hands of eventual winners Aston Villa on their return to the annual seven-a-side tournament for the first time since a last eight appearance on their debut in 2004.

“We thank everybody, and it is honour to be invited to such a wonderful event this year as well,” said Kashima in a club statement.

FC Seoul in 2016. Photo by Li Man Yuen / Power Sport Images

“Last year, we lost the shield semi-final match, but after the last match, fans in the stand gave us huge applause and cheers and it was a great experience for our players.

“This year, we will make good preparation, and do our best in the tournament.”

FC Seoul became the first ever South Korean team to appear at the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens last year and reached the semi-finals before a narrow 1-0 defeat to eventual runners-up West Ham United.

“FC Seoul is happy to participate in HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens 2017 after last year. The summer of 2016 in Hong Kong was great moment for FC Seoul after reaching the semi-finals in the Main Cup,” said the club in a statement.

“Moreover, local fans’ support and interest was an unforgettable memory for us. We are looking forward to the Soccer Sevens this year.”

Wellington are making their third successive appearance at the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens after becoming New Zealand’s first ever representatives in 2015 and the A-League side have reached the semi-finals on both occasions.

“We are really looking forward to our third year at the Hong Kong Football Club Citi Soccer Sevens,” said Wellington Phoenix general manager David Dome.

Wellington Phoenix in 2016. Photo by Li Man Yuen / Power Sport Images

“We’ve been very successful in previous years at what is an internationally renowned football competition which continues to grow and attract some of the very best young talent from around the world.

“The tournament is exceptionally well run and we always thoroughly enjoy our time in Hong Kong and building contacts with clubs from around the world.

“We look forward to testing some of our younger players against some of the biggest clubs in world football, and continuing to fly the flag for New Zealand and the A-League.”

Hong Kong Premier League side Kitchee, Hong Kong Football Club, Hong Kong Football Club Captain’s Select, Singapore Cricket Club, Hong Kong Football Association U-23s and Yau Yee League Select complete the line-for the 16-team Main tournament.

“We welcome our friends from Singapore Cricket Club, our local rivals Kitchee plus the best of the HKFA Under 21s and Yau Yee League,” added Tournament Director Plowman.

“It is always great to add a local flavour to the Sevens. It’s going to be a cracker!”

The line-up for the 10-team Masters tournament has also been confirmed with Citi All Stars returning to defend the title they won last year against 2015 champions USRC, newcomers Playon, Wallsend Boys Club, Kowloon Cricket Club, Singapore Cricket Club, HKFC Chairman’s Select, HKFC Masters, Yau Yee League Masters and Discovery Bay.