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Antlers to face FC Tokyo in season opener

Kyodo

The reigning champion Kashima Antlers will open the upcoming soccer season at home against FC Tokyo next month, the J. League announced on Thursday.

The Antlers, who were runners-up to Real Madrid in December’s Club World Cup held in Japan, will start the new season on Feb. 25 at Kashima Stadium, as J1 returns to a one-stage system.

Seven more matches will be held the same day, including Vegalta Sendai hosting J1 returnees Consadole Sapporo, Omiya Ardija meeting Kawasaki Frontale, Yokohama F. Marinos entertaining Urawa Reds and promoted Shimizu S-Pulse playing Vissel Kobe.

Cerezo Osaka, who make a return to J1, will take on Jubilo Iwata, Sanfrecce Hiroshima meet Albirex Niigata and Sagan Tosu play Kashiwa Reysol. The match between Gamba Osaka and Ventforet Kofu is scheduled Feb. 26.