The U-22 rule is not absolute… Part 1, befits part 1, the club must decide its own direction [40 years old, hope for the K-League②]

The professional soccer K-League celebrated the 40th anniversary of ‘Immortality’. The K-League, which started with five teams in 1983, the first year of its launch, and has undergone several evolutions, has transformed into a huge market with 25 clubs in the 1st and 2nd divisions in 2023. It is also the league that won the most championships (10 times) in the Asian Champions League. The K-League’s external competitiveness in terms of numbers continues to develop. However, in the still poor football industry environment, corporate clubs are gradually reducing the scale of investment, and city and village clubs are becoming political scapegoats. There are also many teams with poor crowd mobilization, so they couldn’t completely get out of their ‘league of their own’. Sports Seoul examines the reality of the 40-year-old K-League over four episodes and tries to include suggestions for securing future competitiveness.먹튀검증

There is a word that has become a hot topic among K-League officials over the past few years. That’s ‘leveling down’.

Soccer players and officials who have been involved in professional soccer for a long time are concerned about the downward leveling of the K-League, especially the first division. Compared to the past, there is little disagreement that the level of each team has fallen. Excluding Jeonbuk Hyundai and Ulsan Hyundai, there are not many teams that can be called ‘big clubs’ aiming to win the K-League right now.

The gap between Jeonbuk and Ulsan and the rest of the teams widens. FC Seoul and Suwon Samsung, which were once considered the best teams in the K-League, shrank to the point of resenting the system where three teams fell in the first division, worrying about relegation. It’s an understandable point, but the lamentation of the two teams who were aiming for the championship comes unfamiliar to me as I recall the glory of the past. Jeju United experienced relegation a long time ago. The Jeonnam Dragons and Busan I-Park, which have a history and tradition, cannot escape from the second division. Recently, civil clubs such as Incheon United and Daegu FC are recording better results. In the current K-League, it is not strange no matter what happens from the middle ranks onwards.

There is a reason. The fact that a national team player or a top-notch prospect turned his eyes abroad early had an impact. Compared to the past, players’ overseas expansion has become more active. Even if you do a little bit well, it’s a recent atmosphere to mention ‘Europe’ by players or people around you. It has become an environment where it is difficult to find a good player for a long time unless it is Jeonbuk or Ulsan. Most of the top stars at the national level play overseas or take them from Jeonbuk or Ulsan.

The increase to 25 teams is also a factor that causes the leveling down. Recently, as the second division teams are also actively spending, the dispersion of players is deepening. It is common for players who can play in the first division to go down to the second division. Although there is a difference in overall labor costs, the second division team now also offers similar or higher salaries to the first division for a few players who can be used as core players.

As a result, even the big K-League 1 clubs struggle to recruit players. This is why the other teams other than Jeonbuk and Ulsan have similar strength. The power of the second division has increased, but the top division, the first division, is losing power. The gap between 1 and 2 is getting smaller.


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