Scotland’s Rangers will return to the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens after an absence of two years, with defending Cup champions Aston Villa, West Ham United and Leicester City joining the two-time runners-up at Hong Kong Football Club in May.
Rangers reached back-to-back finals in 2009 and 2010, losing to Celtic and Aston Villa, and last appeared in 2014 as the Scottish Premier League side lost in the Shield final to Aston Villa.
French Ligue 1 club Marseille, German Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen and Italian Serie A outfit Cagliari have already been confirmed for the May 26-28 event in what is the most diverse line-up in the annual tournament’s 19-year history.
“We are delighted to be returning to Hong Kong for the 2017 HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens tournament,” said Rangers head of academy business and education Creag Robertson.
“One of the key objectives at Rangers academy is to provide our players with as many ‘best v best’ challenges as possible to prepare them for playing at Ibrox in front of 50,000 supporters each week, and we have always felt that this tournament will certainly help us achieve this objective.
“Throughout Rangers’ history we have always competed in European competition on a regular basis and events like this are ideal in preparing our young players to play at that level.”
Aston Villa beat West Ham 2-0 in last year’s Cup final to claim a record sixth HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens title thanks to goals from the competition’s top scorer Harry McKirdy and striker Rushian Hepburn-Murphy.
“It is a privilege for Aston Villa to be invited to defend our 2016 Hong Kong Sevens title,” said Aston Villa academy manager Sean Kimberley.
“Over the years, the Hong Kong Sevens tournament has proved to be a vital part of the development pathway for players in our academy.
“As proof of that, three members of last season’s victorious squad – Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, Corey Blackett-Taylor and Keinan Davis – have all featured for the first team this season. We’re all looking forward to taking part in 2017.”
Fellow regular visitors West Ham have yet to win the Main Cup title at the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens, with last year’s defeat a second consecutive loss in the showpiece final for the Premier League side, who won the Plate in 2012.
“Having been losing finalists for the last two years, we hope that this will be third time lucky for West Ham,” said academy coach Mark Phillips.
Leicester have reached a final on each of their five appearances at Hong Kong Football Club, with the 2013 Cup winners beating Hong Kong champions Eastern 3-2 in last year’s Shield final.
“The HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens has been a rich learning experience for young Leicester City players for many years now. The demands of the competition, its format and its intensity are unique and challenge the players’ ability to adapt to a different environment,” said Leicester academy manager Ian Cawley said.
“The Club has been involved in all three of the tournament’s knockout competitions in recent seasons and we’re delighted to be returning to the Happy Valley to build on the successes of previous years.”
Further teams from Hong Kong and across Asia will be announced in the coming weeks for the May 26-28 event at Hong Kong Football Club.
“Although we have broadened the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens to more European leagues this year, we of course are delighted to see some great English clubs represented again, with last year’s champions Aston Villa, West Ham United – the finalists for the past two years – and current English champions Leicester City facing off against the new European opposition,” said Tournament Director Chris Plowman.
“It will also be great to see Rangers returning to the event after a few years’ absence.”