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NEWS

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2024 K League 2 Season Preview

league 2024.02.26   I   hits 390

The 2024 Hana Bank K League 2 season is just around the corner. More than half of the teams will feel as though they have a chance of winning promotion and with all being busy in the transfer window, competition for the the top five is expected to be fierce. Here's all you need to know about the 13 teams of K League 2.

Format

The 13 clubs of K League 2 each play 39 matches with three fixtures against each of the other 12 teams. As there are an odd number of participating clubs in K League 2, each round will have one team sitting the round out. 

The league winners earn automatic promotion while the runners-up advance to Promotion-Relegation Playoff 1 against 11th in K League 1. Third receives a bye through to the Promotion Final where they will play the winners of fourth versus fifth. The winners of the Promotion Final head to Promotion-Relegation Playoff 2 against 10th in K League 1.

In the fourth versus fifth playoff, the home team only needs to draw to advance. Likewise, in the third versus winners of fourth versus fifth, the home team only needs to avoid defeat.


Ansan Greeners


Manager: Lim Kwan-sik | Captain: Kim Young-nam | Nickname: Green Wolves | Est: 2017 | Mascot: Dani, Loni | Rivals: FC Anyang | Stadium: Ansan Wa~ Stadium (2007, 35,000)

Following Ansan Mugunghwa's move to Asan, the city of Ansan sought to found a citizen team and in 2017, following a fan vote for the name, Ansan Greeners were born. The Greeners' first-ever match was a 2-1 home victory over Daejeon Citizen on the opening day of the 2017 season. In 2019 the Green Wolves recorded their highest finish by securing fifth place and only narrowly missed out on a place in the playoffs. The Greeners are part of one of the league's budding rivalries, the Line 4 Derby, with FC Anyang, named after the Seoul Metro line that connects the two cities. After finishing second-bottom last year and ninth the year before, the Green Wolves will be hoping for a change of fortunes this season. In fact, manager Lee Kwan-sik said in pre-season that the aim is to qualify for the playoffs. Should Ansan do so, it'd be the club's first foray into K League's post-season.

Highest K League 2 Finish: 5th (2019)
2023 Finish: 12th (13-team division)

FC Anyang


Manager: Ryu Byeong-hoon | Captain: Lee Chang-yong | Nickname: Violets | Est: 2013 | Mascot: Bati | Rivals: Ansan Greeners, FC Seoul | Stadium: Anyang Sports Complex (1986, 17,143)

FC Anyang are one of the founding members of K League 2 having joined what was then the K League Challenge in 2013 for its debut season. The Violets have remained in the division ever since and narrowly missed out on the playoffs in 2014 by finishing fifth which, up until 2021 was their highest-ever finish. That was when Anyang finished second to secure a place in the Promotion Playoff Final; they also finished third in 2022 but were unable to reach the playoffs at all last season, despite establishing themselves as one of the perennial promotion favourites. In fact, in 2022, Anyang made it all the way to the promotion-relegation playoff final but lost to Suwon Bluewings. This year, with a new manager at the helm, and with fresh blood injected into the playing squad, Anyang are aiming to get back on track and finally win promotion. Ryu Byeong-hoon says he is also targeting wins over Suwon Bluewings in the renewed "Jijidae Derby." what has now become the Super Match which originated from the team in Anyang facing the Bluewings.

Highest K League 2 Finish: 2nd (2021)
2023 Finish: 6th 

Bucheon FC 1995


Manager: Lee Young-min | Captain: Han Ji-ho | Nickname:  Hermes, Reds  | Est: 2007 | Mascot(s): Hergun, Borayang | Rivals: Jeju United, Incheon United | Stadium: Bucheon Stadium (2008, 34,456)

Spawned following Bucheon SK's move to Jeju Island and becoming Jeju United, citizen club Bucheon FC 1995 joined K League 2 in 2013 after five years in the Challengers League, now K3. Bucheon have experienced somewhat contrasting final league positions over the years, finishing as high as third in 2016 and as low as 10th (bottom) in 2021. Bucheon have made it into the playoffs on a number of occasions, in 2016, 2019, 2022, and 2023 but have been unable to make the step into the K League promised land. Last year, as was the case in 2022, Lee Young-min's men were knocked out by Gyeongnam. Coach Lee, who recently penned a new contract, has said that the aim again this year is to reach the playoffs, except go one better and finally reach the top flight.

Highest K League 2 Finish: 3rd (2016)
2023 Finish: 5th (Playoffs)

Busan IPark


Manager: Park Jin-sub | Captain: Lee Han-do | Nickname:  Royals  | Est: 1983 | Mascot: Ddukdi | Rivals: Gyeongnam FC, Ulsan Hyundai | Stadium: Busan Asiad Stadium (2001, 53,769)

As one of the founding members of the K League, Busan IPark have enjoyed a wealth of success under their former guises over the years but differing fortunes since the turn of the century. Having succumbed to relegation in 2015, it took four playoff attempts for the south coast side to achieve promotion in 2019, overcoming rivals Gyeongnam FC in the process. But relegation followed in 2020 and the club have been looking to win promotion back to the top flight since. Experienced manager Park Jin-sub took over midway through 2022 and almost guided them to promotion last season. Busan will now be looking to use the agony of last season's playoff heartbreak to spur them on to automatic promotion this season.

Honours: K League 1 Winners (1984, 1987, 1991, 1997), Promotion Playoff Winners (2019), FA Cup (2004), AFC Champions League (1985-86) League Cup (1997, 1997s, 1998s), National Football Championship (1989, 1990) Afro-Asian Club Championship (1986)
2023 Finish: 2nd (Playoffs)


Cheonan City


Manager: Kim Tae-wan | Captain: Lee Woong-hee | Est: 2008 | Mascot: Narang-i | Stadium: Cheonan Stadium (2001, 26,000)

Cheonan City are heading into what is just their second season in K League 2 this year. The club itself, though, has been around since 2008 when, until 2019, it competed in the National League before joining K3 the following year. The team is headed by experienced manager Kim Tae-wan who is known for his spells with Sangju and Gimcheon Sangmu, winning the K League 2 title with the latter in 2021 and guiding the former to fourth place in K League 1 in 2020. Kim is tasked with taking Cheonan away from the foot of the table where they spent the majority of last season and, as Coach Kim has put it, "as high up the table as possible." The acquisitions of the likes of Lee Woong-hee, Ma Sang-hoon, Kim Dae-jung, Goo Dae-young, and Kim Ryu-do are a testament to the club's ambitions this season. 


Chungbuk Cheongju


Manager: Choi Yun-kyum | Captain: Lee Han-saem | Est: 2002 | Mascot: Chaba | Stadium: Cheongju Sports Complex Stadium (1965, 16,280)

Chungbuk Cheongju were first founded in 2002 and competed at amateur level until 2009 when it joined the K3 League. They were something of a surprise package in 2023 as, in their debut seasoning K League, they were able to muscle their way into the playoff hunt with a mathematical chance of sealing fifth still possible on the final day. At the helm is former Daejeon, Gangwon, and Jeju boss Choi Yun-kyum who will have been happy with the club's maiden K League campaign. The aim for 2024 will be to further establish the Lions as a strong outfit that's capable of reaching the playoffs. 

2023 Finish: 8th

Chungnam Asan


Manager: Kim Hyun-seok | Captain: Park Se-jik | Nickname: Owls  | Est: 2017 | Mascot: Bwong-bwongi | Stadium: Yi Sun-sin Stadium (2008, 17,376)

Chungnam Asan, formerly Asan Mugunghwa and Ansan Mugunghwa, were the police team up until 2018 before making the transition into a citizen team. This meant that, despite winning the K League 2 title in 2018, Park Dong-hyuk and his men were not permitted to be promoted to K League 1. Park Dong-hyuk had, until this winter, remained in charge throughout, and after a tentative first full season as a citizen club in 2020, the Owls changed their home colours to blue. Chungnam Asan came close to reaching the playoffs for the first time in 2022 by finishing fifth to record their best post-2018 finish. There's a new manager in charge and have been very busy in the transfer window, bringing in proven players with the aim of finishing higher than their 10th place from 2023. The team's home stadium is named after Yi Sun-sin, who was a Korean admiral and military general in the 1500s. 

Honours: K League 2 (2018)
2023 Finish: 10th

Gimpo FC


Manager: Ko Jeong-woon | Captain: TBA | Est: 2013 | Mascot: Posu | Stadium: Gimpo Solteo Stadium (2021, 5,000)

Gimpo FC head into what will be their third season in K League 2 after an incredible showing in 2023, finishing third and reaching the playoffs. But, as manager Ko Jeong-woon has pointed out, eight of his starting XI from last year have left. This is a new Gimpo FC team but the aim is to reach the playoffs. After being founded in 2013 as Gimpo Citizen and playing in the K3 League, Gimpo joined K League in 2022. Ko Jeong-woon is the club's manager, having taken over in 2019 and guiding Gimpo to the 2021 K3 League title.

Honours: K3 League Winners (2021)
Highest K League 2 Finish: 3rd (2023)
2023 Finish: 3rd (Playoffs)

Gyeongnam FC


Manager: Park Dong-hyuk | Captain: Woo Joo-sung | Nickname: Roses | Est: 2006 | Mascot: Gunhami, Gyeongmami | Rivals: Busan IPark | Stadium: Changwon Football Center (2009, 15,074)

Gyeongnam FC are the provincial club from South Gyeongsang and play most of their home games at Changwon Football Center, the province's largest city. The team was founded in 2006 and joined K League as the 14th club for the 2006 season. The Roses had an eight-year stay in the top flight before being relegated to the second tier in 2014, spending three seasons in what was then the K League Challenge. In 2017, though, Gyeongnam won K League 2 at a canter and then finished second in the top flight the following season, qualifying for the AFC Champions League for the first time ever. However, relegation followed via the playoffs after an aggregate defeat to rivals Busan IPark. Gyeongnam have reached the playoffs in three out of the last four seasons and came ever so close in 2020. Now led by Park Dong-hyuk, who won the K League 2 title with Asan Mugunghwa in 2018, the task at hand is to seal a long-awaited return to the top flight.

Honours: K League 2 Winners (2017)
Highest K League Finish: 2nd (K League 1, 2018)
2023 Finish: 4th (Playoffs)

Jeonnam Dragons


Manager: Lee Jang-kwan | Captain: Go Tae-won | Nickname: Dragons | Est: 1995 | Mascot: Cheolryongi  | Rivals: Pohang Steelers, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors | Stadium: Gwangyang Football Stadium (1993, 13,496)

Owned by POSCO Steel and being located in South Jeolla Province, Jeonnam Dragons have rivalries with both Pohang Steelers and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. However, after suffering their first-ever relegation in 2018, the Dragons will have to wait before locking horns with their old foes. Jeonnam have four FA Cup wins to their name, the most recent coming in 2021 which qualified them for the 2022 AFC Champions League - the first K League 2 team to do so. But after finishing fourth in 2021, the Dragons ended the 2022 campaign rock bottom and missed out on the playoffs in 2023. But the team did boast of the division's MVP in Valdivia and will be aiming to reach the playoffs at the very least in 2024. The Brazilian star has stayed and there's much optimism for reaching the playoffs in 2024.

Honours: FA Cup Winners (1997, 2006, 2007, 2021)
Highest K League Finish: 2nd (K League 1, 1997)
2023 Finish: 7th 

Seongnam FC



Manager: Lee Ki-hyung | Captain: Jung Seung-yong | 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 Chunma'. 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 have become something of a yo-yo club since then, suffered relegation in 2016 and had a two-year stay in the second tier. The 2024 campaign is the Magpies' second back in K League 2 after relegation in 2022. The club have been busy in the transfer window, bringing in proven quality such as Lee Jeong-hyeop, Ikromjon Alibaev, Yu Sang-hun, Yun Young-sun, and Jung Won-jin. Experienced manager Lee Ki-hyung is be tasked with getting the Magpies flying again. 

Honours: K League 1 Winners (1993, 1994, 1995, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006), Promotion Winners (2018), FA Cup (1999, 2011, 2013), AFC Champions League (1995, 2010), League Cup (1992, 2002, 2004), Afro-Asian Club Championship (1996)
2023 Finish: 9th

Seoul E-Land



Manager: Kim Do-kyun | Captain: Kim Young-wook | Nickname: Leopards | Est: 2015 | Mascot: Bati | Rivals: FC Seoul | Stadium: Mokdong Stadium (1989, 15,511)

Owned by The E-Land Group, Seoul E-Land were formed in 2015 and made it to the playoffs in their debut season. The Leopards haven't been able to do so since but came very close in 2020. Seoul E-Land's home stadium history makes for interesting reading, too, as the Leopards have left their first home, Jamsil Olympic Stadium, while renovation work is completed and have moved into Mokdong Stadium in the west of the city. Mokdong used to be the home stadium of Bucheon SK and Anyang LG Cheetahs. Seoul also played in Cheonan in 2019. The club have been very busy in the transfer window, signing the likes of Osmar, Kim Young-wook, Peter Makrillos, Kim Oh-kyu, and Park Jeong-in. The aim for 2024, which is the club's 10th anniversary season, is to win promotion. Kim Do-kyun is the club's new manager and has experience guiding a team out of this division before having won promotion via the playoffs with Suwon FC in 2020.

Highest K League 2 Finish: 4th (2015)
2023 Finish: 11th

Suwon Samsung Bluewings



Manager: Yeom Ki-hun | Captain: TBC | Nickname: Bluewings | Est: 1995 | Mascot: Akilaeon | Rivals: FC Seoul, Incheon United, Daejeon Hana Citizen | Stadium: Suwon World Cup Stadium (2001, 43,288)

Suwon Samsung Bluewings suffered a shock relegation to the second tier last season after finishing bottom of K League 1. Suwon are one of Korea's most successful and famous clubs 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 country, holding the record for the most number of FA Cups (five) and the now-abolished League Cup (six). But now in unchartered waters of the second division, club legend Yeom Ki-hun has been tasked with steadying the ship and steering the club back to K League 1. Suwon have always been able to produce talented young players and this current crop, with the likes of Kim Ju-chan and Lee Sang-min, will be looked to for attacking inspiration this season.

Honours: K League 1 Winners (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)
2023 Finish: 12th (K League 1, relegated)