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2022 Hana 1Q K League 1 Team Guide

league 2022.02.15   I   hits 2230


From captains, stadiums and mascots to their roll of honours, a comprehensive guide to the 12 teams in the 2022 Hana 1Q K League 1 ahead of the new campaign kicking off on February 19th.

Daegu FC


Manager: Alexandre Gama | Captain: Kim Jin-hyuk | Nickname: Sky Blues | Est: 2002 | Mascots: Rica, Victo | Stadium: DGB Daegu Bank Park (2019, 12,415)

Formed in 2002, Daegu FC are one of the league's oldest citizen-owned clubs, where funding for the team comes primarily from the local government. Daegu suffered relegation in 2013 but, after three seasons in the lower tier, they returned to the top flight stronger than ever. The club lifted its first piece of silverware in 2018, beating Ulsan Hyundai over two legs in the FA Cup Final and subsequently earning AFC Champions League qualification for the first time. The team moved to a football-specific stadium in the centre of the city too in 2019 which saw them clock up nine sell-outs in its maiden year. In 2020, Daegu FC finished fifth and qualified for the AFC Champions League Group Stage through league positioning for the first time before setting a new league finish record in 2021 by ending the campaign in third. Manager Lee Byung-keun has left and, for the third time in the club's history, has a Brazilian manager at the helm in Alexandre Gama. Gama has had a fruitful spell in Asia already having won trophies in the UAE and Thailand and so hopes will be high among the Daegu faithful.

Honours: Promotion winners (2016), FA Cup (2018)
Highest K League 1 Finish: 3rd (2021)
2021 Finish: 3rd

Gangwon FC


Manager: Choi Yong-soo | Captain: Kim Dong-hyun | Nickname: Bears | Est: 2008 | Mascot: Gang-woongi | Stadiums: Songam Sports Town, Chuncheon (2009, 20,000), Gangneung Civic Stadium (1984, 22,333)

A side owned by the provincial government of Gangwon, Gangwon FC were formed as a citizen club at the end of 2008 and began competing in the K League in 2009. The club spent three seasons in the second tier from 2014 to 2016 following relegation in 2013 before triumphing over Seongnam FC in the playoffs to regain their top-flight status. Gangwon FC are still yet to lift silverware but finished in the top half for only the second time in their history in 2019. The Bears are under new leadership with former FC Seoul boss taking over as manager towards the tail-end of last season. Choi guided Gangwon to survival with a 4-2 aggregate win over Daejeon in the playoffs. Being a provincial team, Gangwon have a number of stadiums that they call home. In 2021, most first-team matches were played at Chuncheon Songam Sports Town in the western part of the province but moved to Gangneung Civic Stadium on the East Coast for the run-in. The club has also played home matches in Sokcho and Wonju.

Honours: Promotion winners (2016)
Highest K League 1 Finish: 6th (2017, 2019)
2021 Finish: 11th

Gimcheon Sangmu


Manager: Kim Tae-wan | Captain: Jung Seung-hyun | Est: 2020 | Mascot: Shyu-ung | Stadium: Gimcheon Civic Stadium (2000, 25,000)

Gimcheon Sangmu are the league's military side, with a squad made up of loaned-out professional K League players undertaking their 20-month national service. The team moved from Sangju to Gimcheon in 2020 and had to drop into the second tier. In its previous guise as Sangju Sangmu, the team suffered relegation twice before but were able to earn promotion at the first time of asking on both occasions. The trend continued in 2021 with Gimcheon winning K League 2 and with a nine-point cushion. The army team had gone from strength to strength in the top tier leading up to their change of city, finishing fourth in 2020. The team is led by Kim Tae-wan who has been involved with the army team setup since 2002 as a coach, became assistant manager in 2016 before taking over as manager the following year following the sad passing of Cho Jin-ho. Gimcheon are not permitted to sign foreign players nor can they compete in the AFC Champions League but that won't stop Kim Tae-wan from attempting to finish in the top three or four as he and his team did in 2020.

Honours: K League 2 Championship (2021)
Highest K League Finish: 1st (2021, K League 2)
2021 Finish: 1st (K League 2)

Incheon United


Manager: Jo Sung-hwan | Captain: Oh Ban-seok | Nickname: Neroazzurre (Blue-Black), Durumi (Cranes) | Est: 2003 | Mascot: Yuti | Rivals: FC Seoul, Suwon Samsung Bluewings | Stadium: Incheon Football Stadium (2012, 20,891)

Incheon United played their first season back in 2004 and by their second they managed to reach the Championship Play-off Finals where they finished as runners-up to Ulsan Hyundai. The Blue Black have not reached those heights since but did flirt with glory once more in 2015 when they made it to the FA Cup Final, losing to Gyeongin Derby rivals FC Seoul. In the league, recent seasons have seen them battle relegation on an annual basis yet they have always managed to survive with some memorable last round heroics that still burn strong in their fanbase's minds. The 2020 season saw Incheon pull off the greatest of great escapes despite being nine points adrift when manager Jo Sung-hwan took over in the summer. Last season, Incheon finished in a much-more-comfortable eighth place and were never in any great danger of being relegated. The club is yet to win a piece of major silverware and hasn't finished in the top half of the table since 2009, but with the progress the team has made under Coach Jo, the Incheon faithful will be hopeful of even better things to come in 2022.

Highest K League 1 Finish: 2nd (2005)
2021 Finish: 8th

Jeju United

Manager: Nam Ki-il | Captain: Kim Oh-gyu | Nickname: Islanders, Tangerines | Est: 1982 | Mascot: Gamgyuli | Rivals: Bucheon FC 1995 | Stadium: Jeju World Cup Stadium (2001, 35,657)

Originally founded as Bucheon SK, SK Corporation-owned Jeju United made great strides in 2021, finishing fourth in K League 1 after winning promotion and the K League 2 title in 2020. Located on the beautiful island of Jeju off the south coast, the Tangerines boast of one of the most picturesque stadiums in Korea - Jeju World Cup Stadium in the city of Seogwipo. Jeju appointed Nam Ki-il as the manager of the team before the start of the 2020 season. Coach Nam then made it three promotions with three different teams before then recording his very first top-six K League 1 finish and a best for Jeju since 2017. Having come so close to AFC Champions League qualification in 2021, Coach Nam and his men will be hoping to go one better this season.

Honours: K League 1 (1989)*, K League 2 (2020)
2021 Finish: 4th

*as Bucheon SK

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors


Manager: Kim Sang-sik | Captain: Hong Jeong-ho | Nickname: Green Warriors | Est: 1994 | Mascot: Cho-a | Rivals: Jeonnam Dragons, FC Seoul, Suwon Samsung Bluewings | Stadium: Jeonju World Cup Stadium (2001, 42,477)

Despite being formed in 1994, it was not until the 21st Century that Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors began to claim silverware. The last decade has seen them cement themselves as a K League powerhouse, lifting six league titles within the last seven years alone. In 2020, Jeonbuk made K League history by recording both an unprecedented eighth title and also a fourth-in-a-row, as well as a league and cup double. Club legend Kim Sang-sik took charge in 2021 in what is his first managerial job after Jose Morais decided to leave after a two-year trophy-laden spell. Kim, a former defender himself, successfully defended the Green Warriors' K League title, sealing a record-extending fifth straight championship on the final day. The club's captain, Hong Jeong-ho, was named as 2021 K League 1 MVP for his efforts - a first Most Valuable Player Award for a defender in 24 years. 

Honours: K League 1 (2009, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021), FA Cup (2000, 2003, 2005, 2020), AFC Champions League (2006, 2016)
2021 Finish: 1st

Pohang Steelers


Manager: Kim Ki-dong | Captain: Shin Jin-ho | Nickname: Steelers | Est: 1973 | Mascot: Swidoli  | Rivals: Ulsan Hyundai | Stadium: Pohang Steel Yard (1990, 15,521)

One of the founding members of the division, Pohang Steelers, owned by POSCO Steel, are one of the most successful sides in both K League and AFC Champions League history. Fierce rivals of Ulsan Hyundai, Pohang's last silverware was in 2013 when the Steelers did the double. Since then, Pohang have been working toward a return to prominence and, under the stewardship of club legend Kim Ki-dong, secured back-to-back top-four finishes and a return to the AFC Champions League for 2021. The Steelers went on to reach the ACL final last season and so will be looking to build on the progress made under Coach Kim.

Honours: K League 1 (1986, 1988, 1992, 2007, 2013), FA Cup (1996, 2008, 2012, 2013), AFC Champions League (1996-97, 1997-98, 2009), League Cup (1993, 2009)
2021 Finish: 8th

Seongnam FC


Manager: Kim Nam-il | Captain: Kwon Soon-hyung | Nickname: Magpies | Est: 1989 | Mascot: Kka-oh | Rivals: Suwon Samsung Bluewings, FC Seoul | Stadium: Tancheon Sports Complex (2002, 16,146)

Seongnam FC are one of the league's most decorated clubs, particularly under their former guise of 'Seongnam Ilhwa'. The club has lifted the league title no fewer than seven times, winning three consecutive championships on two separate occasions. Their conversion to a citizen club ahead of the 2014 season began with an FA Cup win and a foray into the AFC Champions League the following season. But the Magpies suffered relegation in 2016 and had a two-year stay in the second tier before returning under the stewardship of Nam Ki-il. Coach Nam led them to ninth place in 2019 before current boss Kim Nam-il secured back-to-back 10th-place finishes. 

Honours: K League 1 (1993, 1994, 1995, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006), FA Cup (1999, 2011, 2013), AFC Champions League (1995, 2010), League Cup (1992, 2002, 2004), Afro-Asian Club Championship (1996)
2021 Finish: 10th

FC Seoul


Manager: An Ik-soo | Captain: Ki Sung-yueng | Est: 1983, 2004 | Mascot: SSID | Rivals: Suwon Samsung Bluewings, Incheon United, Seongnam FC, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, FC Anyang | Stadium: Seoul World Cup Stadium (2001,  66,704)

FC Seoul are the capital city's top-flight team and have enjoyed various domestic successes over the years under different guises. Life began as Lucky-Goldstar in the early 1980s before becoming the LG Cheetahs. The Cheetahs would win three K League titles before being re-founded as FC Seoul in 2004. The club then lifted the K League title three times, in 2010, 2012, and on the last day of the 2016 season in dramatic circumstances away to then-reigning champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Since then, FC Seoul has finished fifth, eleventh, third, ninth, and seventh. The FC Seoul supporters, or 'Suhoshin', will be hoping that new boss An Ik-soo can give the team some stability and make a return to prominence. 

Honours: K League 1 (1985, 1990, 2000, 2010, 2012, 2016), FA Cup (1998, 2015), League Cup (2006, 2010), National Football Championship (1988)
2021 Finish: 7th

Suwon FC


Manager
: Kim Do-kyun | Captain: Park Joo-ho | Est: 2003 | Mascot: Jangin-janggun | Rivals: Suwon Samsung Bluewings | Stadium: Suwon Civic Stadium (1971, 11,808)

Citizen club Suwon FC were established long before K League 2 began in 2013, competing in the now-defunct National League (3rd tier) up until then. Two years later and Suwon had reached the promised land by defeating relative giants Busan IPark in the playoffs. Relegation followed a year later but Suwon can sample top-flight football once more having won the Promotion Playoffs for a second time in 2020 with a dramatic last-minute penalty from 2020 K League 2 MVP An Byong-jun. The Castle Park club strengthened significantly ahead of the 2021 season and went on to secure a historic top-half finish in part thanks to an attack by Golden Boot contender Lars Veldwijk who bagged 18 goals and joint-leading assist maker Murilo.  This time around, for the first time in the club's history, Suwon FC will be competing in the top flight for the second straight year and have brought in Lee Seung-woo to ensure there is a third to follow.

Honours: Promotion Playoff winners (2015, 2020)
Highest K League 1 Finish: 5th (2021)
2021 Finish: 5th

Suwon Samsung Bluewings


Manager: Park Kun-ha | Captain: Min Sang-gi | Nickname: Bluewings | Est: 1995 | Mascot: Akilaeon | Stadium: Suwon World Cup Stadium (2001, 43,288)

Suwon Samsung Bluewings are one of the more renowned names in Korean football, having enjoyed both domestic and continental success around the turn of the decade. The Bluewings also boast the reputation of being one of the better cup sides in the division, holding the record for the most number of FA Cups (five) and the now-abolished League Cup (six). One of those FA Cups came in 2019, ensuring their place in the AFC Champions League for 2020. Last year, under the stewardship of club legend Park Kun-ha, Suwon made a return to the top half of the table and so will be keen to make further strides in 2022 for the team which resides in the "football capital of Korea". Club legend Yeom Ki-hun (pictured above) is in his last year as a professional and aims to join the '80-80 Club' with 80 goals and 80 K League assists.

Honours: K League 1 (1998, 1999, 2004, 2008), FA Cup (2002, 2009, 2010, 2016, 2019), AFC Champions League (2000-01, 2001-02(, League Cup (1999, 1999s, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2008)
2021 Finish: 6th

Ulsan Hyundai


Manager: Hong Myung-bo | Captain: Lee Chung-yong | Nickname: Horangi (Tigers) | Est: 1983 | Mascot: Geonho | Stadium: Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium (2001, 44,102)

Ulsan Hyundai, owned by Hyundai Heavy Industries, also make up part of the K League's founding members club, having been established in 1983 as the Hyundai Horang-i. In recent years, Ulsan's success has centred around cup competitions having won the FA Cup in 2017 and a second ACL title in 2020. In the league, the Horangi have come agonisingly close to lifting a first title since 2005 having finished second in 2019 and 2020 and third in 2018. Ulsan fans would have to go back to 2015 for the last time their club finished outside the top four. Under the stewardship of Korean football legend Hong Myung-bo, Ulsan will be doing their utmost to knock Jeonbuk off their perch this season.

Honours: K League (1996, 2005), FA Cup (2017), AFC Champions League (2012, 2020), League Cup (1986, 1995, 1998, 2007, 2011)
2021 Finish: 2nd