HomeTrending33+5: How the 12 K League are headed for the season finale

33+5: How the 12 K League are headed for the season finale

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Ulsan Hyundai and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors are currently the front runners for the K League title, with both teams having played 32 games out of 38.

The two newly promoted teams, Suwon FC and Jeju United are also showing outstanding performances and are occupying the fourth and fifth spots respectively. However, FC Seoul, known as the traditional giant, has struggled, and are currently ranked ninth.

At present, there are 12 teams competing in the K League 1, which is less than the J League 1 (20) or Chinese Super League (16). Generally, most professional football leagues around the world hold about 30 to 40 matches per season, but in case of K League, with only 12 teams, it is not easy complete the same number of games.

How does the K League counter this situation?

The K League is using ‘Split System’ as the solution. This is benchmarked from the Scottish Premiership, which also consists of 12 teams. Initially, all 12 teams face three times each and play up to 33 rounds. Following which, the top six teams and the bottom six teams face each other to play for five more games. In this way, a total 38 rounds of matches are completed.


The first 33 rounds are called the ‘Regular Stage’, and the last five rounds are called the ‘Final Stage’. All records obtained from the regular stage, including points, wins and losses, will be inherited to the final stage. However,, the points earned in the finals will not allow the lower-ranked team to be promoted to the top-ranked team.

What it means for the teams in the final stage

The final stage is not only to ensure the number of matches, but also to provide fans with a better watching experience. When the season is heading towards the end, there is less tension in the match between teams with the finalised rank. Therefore, the system minimises such meaningless games.

Instead, the final stage is filled up with more dramatic and important games, between the top-ranking teams to fight for the league title and for a spot in the AFC Champions League, and a battle to avoid relegation for the bottom-ranking teams.

At this moment, there is only one game left for the regular stage and there are two final stage tickets left to enter the championship group. Jeju United, Suwon Bluewings and Pohang Steelers are fighting to break into the top six positions.



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