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5 Korea Cup games to look out for this weekend

K League 2 clubs enter the Korea Cup second round stage this weekend, hoping to avoid a giant-killing and the loss of a potentially lucrative cup run. The draw features two K5 clubs, a five-time champion, and the 2021 winners. Here is the full list of fixtures and five of the most intriguing ties.

Will Gimpo target the Cup when promotion is a real possibility?
Byuksan Players FC vs Gimpo FC

Saturday, March 23rd, 13:00.
Hanam Sports Complex.

To give them their full name, Seoul Gwanakgu Byuksan Players FC of K5, beat K4 outfit Chungju FC in the first round earlier this month. That match took place at Hyochang Park Stadium in central Seoul, an hour after FC Seoul's home opener against Incheon United ended. Over 50,000 attended Sangam that evening and while Hyochang saw nothing close to that figure, a sizeable crowd was on show. Why? Because FC Seoul legend Go Yo-han now plays for the home side.

Byuksan's opponents are K League 2 club Gimpo FC, who came agonizingly close to promotion last winter. Gimpo have plenty of quality, especially in star forward Luis Mina, but this isn't quite the glamour tie Byuksan would have hoped for. A giant killing is unlikely, but with three divisions separating the clubs, it should be a memorable occasion. This second-round tie has been moved from Hyochang to Hanam Sports Complex, east of Jamsil.

The winners will host FC Anyang or Siheung Citizen on April 17th.

Victory for Seoul E-Land will guarantee a capital city derby
Daejeon Korail vs. Seoul E-Land

Saturday, March 23rd, 14:00.
Daejeon World Cup Auxiliary Stadium.

Daejeon Korail are one of the oldest football clubs in Korea, with a name that is infinitely more interesting than any combination of United, City, or Citizen. In 2019, they boarded in Round 3 and rode all the way to the final. Ulsan Hyundai, Seoul E-Land, and Gangwon FC were each toppled 2-0 before Suwon Samsung ended their dreams in the decider. Daejeon Korail coasted past Dangjin Citizen 3-1 in the first round.

Their opponents on Saturday will be a familiar face from that epic 2019 adventure, but Seoul E-Land are a different prospect this time. Kim Do-kyun's team are genuine title contenders in K League 2 having beaten Busan IPark and Suwon before last weekend's defeat in Bucheon. I was in Mokdong for the Suwon game and the staff were already giddily anticipating a mouthwatering (potential) third-round tie against FC Seoul. The Osmar Derby.

Daejeon Korail or Seoul E-Land will host FC Seoul on April 17th.

Seongnam could be in danger of an early Cup exit.
Pocheon Citizen vs. Seongnam FC

Saturday, March 23rd, 14:00.
Pocheon Stadium.

This fixture might have merited inclusion anyway, but the big news in K League 2 turned it into a cert. After two damaging defeats and a poor performance in Cheonan, Seongnam parted ways with manager Lee Ki-hyung this morning. Less than a month ago, Seongnam were tipped as a play-off dark horse after solid investment over winter. Now they are vulnerable and a trip to a K3 side is probably down their list of priorities.

Pocheon recorded a good 3-0 win away at Yangpyeong FC in the first round. Formed in 2008, their best finish in the Cup was a couple of rounds of 16 exits, but they once eliminated current K League 1 outfit Daejeon Hana. K3 opened on March 2nd, and Pocheon are unbeaten in two games, having finished 11th in 2023. This has shock written all over it.

Suwon FC await the winners in April.

Cheonan City should be far too strong for their K5 opponents.
Cheonan City FC vs. Yangsan Eogok

Sunday, March 24th, 14:00.
Cheonan Stadium.

A major upset is highly unlikely but this is the second match featuring a team from the fifth tier of Korean football. Yangsan Eogok are an amateur football club located just outside Busan. Founded in 1987, their crest is awesome; it features a clench-fisted bee surrounded by two footballs and five stars. They just don't make crests like this anymore. Yangsan Eogok dispatched K4 team Sejong FC in the last round, but a victory in Cheonan would represent a major surprise.

Cheonan City have started the season surprisingly well in K League 2, after last year's bottom-placed finish. They shocked Bucheon FC 1995 on the opening day and led near-neighbors Chungbuk Cheongju going into the final minutes. But 2 red cards and a couple of late goals saw them beaten at the death. Last week, Cheonan drew with Seongnam despite dominating the game.

A trip to Jeju Island is on offer for the winners. Imagine if Yangsan Eogok were booked on that flight?

Suwon have a great Cup history but priorities might be elsewhere this year.
Suwon Samsung vs. Chuncheon FC

Sunday, March 24th, 14:00.
Suwon World Cup Stadium.

There were plenty of options to pick for the final game but I couldn't look past Chuncheon Citizen's glamour tie with the five-time winner, Suwon Samsung. With the greatest respect to the other K League 2 sides in the draw, this is the fixture every other club would have chosen. Suwon have lifted the Korea Cup five times (only Pohang have more) with their last success being in 2019. Suwon haven't dominated K League 2 since their relegation but the story of the championship has been their incredible away support.

Chuncheon's reward for a 2-0 win over Jeonju Citizen is a trip to Big Bird, the gorgeous 45,000-capacity World Cup stadium. The visitors finished 8th in K3 last season and opened their new season with a win and a loss. They first competed in the Cup in 2012, with their best finish being a round-of-16 exit in 2018. A shock is unlikely in Suwon on Sunday, but for the fans, players, and staff at Chuncheon Citizen, this could be a once-in-a-lifetime visit to Suwon.

Gyeongju KHNP or Ansan Greeners will host the winners on April 17th.

The draw in full:

Saturday, March 23rd

Byuksan FC (5) vs. Gimpo FC (2), 13:00
Changwon FC (3) vs. FC Mokpo (3), 14:00
FC Anyang (2) vs. Siheung Citizen (3), 14:00
Jinju Citizen (4) vs. Chungnam Asan (2), 14:00
Pyeongtaek Citizen (4) vs. Gimhae FC (3), 14:00
Gyeongju KHNP (3) vs. Ansan Greeners (2), 14:00
Paju Citizen (3) vs. Gyeongnam FC (2), 14:00
Daejeon Korail (3) vs. Seoul E-Land (2), 14:00
Pocheon Citizen (3) vs. Seongnam FC (2), 14:00

Sunday, March 24th

Hwaseong FC (3) vs. Yeoju FC (3), all Sunday ties 14:00
Bucheon FC 1995 (2) vs. Busan Transportation (3)
Cheonan City FC (2) vs. Yangsan Eogok (5)
Busan IPark (2) vs. Ulsan Citizen (3)
Jeonnam Dragons (2) vs. Gangneung Citizen (3)
Suwon Samsung (2) vs. Chuncheon FC (3)
Chungbuk Cheongju FC (2) vs. Geoje Citizen (4)

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