SEOUL, South Korea — Asian powers Japan and South Korea have named squads devoid of big names for next month's biennial East Asian Cup, which also features China and North Korea.
The four-nation round-robin competition, to be held in the Chinese city of Wuhan, is not officially recognized by FIFA so European-based clubs, preparing for the start of domestic seasons, are not obliged to release players.
This means Japan will be without big names such as Keisuke Honda of AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund's Shinji Kagawa while South Korea will miss Bayer Leverkusen's Son Heung-min and English Premier League star Ki Seung-yeung.
The absences give up and coming players the chance for some international time with vital 2018 World Cup qualifiers fast approaching.
Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic named an entirely J-League based squad of 23 players and has called up Yuki Moto of Urawa Reds, Shonan Bellmare's Wataru Endo and Gamba Osaka stars Koki Yonekura and Shu Kurata for the first time.
"This is a tournament in which the new players have to show what they are capable of. For the domestic players this will be a very good test," Halilhodzic told reporters in Tokyo.
Japan is looking to bounce back from disappointing 0-0 draw with Singapore last month at home in its first qualifier for the 2018 World Cup.
South Korea coach Uli Stielike has named players from the Chinese Super League as well as the J-League and the 2015 Asian Cup runner-up has selected Kim Shin-wook for the first time since the striker broke his ankle in last September's Asian Games.
The tall attacker has been linked with a move to England in the transfer window and could perhaps increase his options and asking price by a good showing in China. Korea goalkeeper Kim Jin-hyeon has withdrawn from the squad after breaking his collar bone, to be replaced by Lee Bom-young.
"China and North Korea will field their strongest squads, but Japan face the same situation as us," said Stielike. "We'll do our best with the players we have."
China is hoping to build on an encouraging last eight finish at the 2015 Asian Cup in January and has named an-all domestic roster as it looks to recapture the trophy won in Tokyo in 2010. Coach Alain Perrin has named seven players from Chinese Super League powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande.
North Korea had a dismal Asian Cup but has started qualification for the 2018 World Cup brightly. The team has included three overseas players in its list.
Ri Yong Jik and An Byoung Joon, are based in Japan, while Pak Kwang Ryong ply his trade in Switzerland. There is no place in the team for former star striker Jong Tae Se who recently left South Korea's Suwon Samsung Bluewings to join Shimizu S-Pulse in Japan.