Winning is always something to celebrate. However, professional soccer teams that play both league and cup competitions have to worry about fitness and performance in a tight schedule. So, which FA Cup quarterfinalists have the most challenging schedule in the week leading up to the quarterfinals?
On April 24 at 7 p.m., the round of 16 matches of the 2023 Hana OneQ FA Cup kicked off across the country, and the quarterfinalists were determined after a hard-fought battle.
All of the quarterfinal tickets were claimed by K League 1 teams. K League 1 Incheon United, who defeated K League 2 Gyeongnam FC 3-0, will face Suwon Samseong, who beat fellow K League 1 side Daegu FC 1-0. Following that, K League 1 Pohang Steelers and Gangwon FC will meet in the quarterfinals after defeating K League 2’s Seongnam FC (3-0) and Gimpo FC (3-2), respectively.
K League 1 leaders Ulsan Hyundai advanced to the quarterfinals with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over 10th-ranked Jeonnam Dragons in K League 2. Jeju United traveled to fellow K League 1 contenders Daejeon Hana Citizen and won a hard-fought 4-3 victory to meet Ulsan in the quarterfinals.
Last season’s K League 1 runners-up, Jeonbuk Hyundai, the only semi-professional team in the FA Cup Round of 16, earned a hard-fought 5-2 extra-time win over Paju Min Football Club of the K3 League. K League 1 dark horse Gwangju FC, who defeated K League 2’s Seoul Eland FC 1-0, will face Jeonbuk in the quarterfinals.
All of the teams in the FA Cup quarterfinals have a more demanding schedule than the rest of the field, with league games on the weekend and cup competitions during the week. Of course, there’s still about a month to go until FA Cup week, but there are some teams that will have a thorny road ahead of them before and after the FA Cup quarterfinals on June 28.
It seems that the teams at the bottom of the league will have a relatively tough schedule. Gwangju, ranked 9th in K League 1, will face Jeonbuk (7th) on June 24, Jeonbuk (7th-FA Cup) on June 28, and Ulsan (1st) on July 2. Following a two-game series against last season’s runners-up and recent rebounders Jeonbuk, Gwangju will have a tough schedule with league leader Ulsan right after.
The 11th-ranked Gangwon will face Suwon FC (8th) on June 25, Pohang (4th – FA Cup) on June 28, and Incheon (10th) on July 2. Despite the lower ranking of their opponents compared to Gwangju, Gangwon themselves are in 11th place, and the schedule is not favorable, as they are scheduled to face direct competition from teams currently in the hunt to escape the bottom half of the table before and after the FA Cup quarterfinals. The position is not much different for last-place Suwon, 메이저놀이터 which hosts FC Seoul (2nd) on June 24, Incheon (10th – FA Cup) on June 28, and Daegu (6th) on July 1.
The Jeju Islanders have a surprisingly tough FA Cup quarterfinal week given their high ranking of third in the league. It hosts Daejeon (5th) on June 24, Ulsan (1st – FA Cup) on June 28, and Jeonbuk (7th) on July 1. Similar to Gwangju, they’ll have to face Ulsan and Jeonbuk, as well as a tough FA Cup round of 16 matchup against Daejeon. For Jeju, this could be a crucial period in the fight for the top spot.
Late June/early July is when the mid-table battle in the K League is at its most intense. It will be interesting to see how the FA Cup quarterfinalists handle this period of juggling league and cup competitions.