Here is our Prediction for the upcoming 2016 K League Classic Season. After an overall successful if a little dull at times 2015 season (Full Summary Here) we’re hopeful that this season will be an improvement or at least as good. There haven’t been a huge number of changes in comparison to previous years (basically not so many leaving for China) and therefore we’re hopefully that the improved stability of the league will prove positive on the pitch.
Firstly to make it clear, this prediction is mainly based on our personal view and on personal knowledge, but of course uses recent K League news, pre-season transfers (so far), the 2015 season as well as other factors. We’ll try and include as much information as possible about the K League Classic, so you can gain a little insight even if you’re unfamiliar with South Korea’s top professional football league.
Structure for 2016 in the K League Classic
It’s the same as the past 2 seasons, but for those of you unfamiliar with the the K League Classic structure here in a basic recap:
- The K League Classic features 12 teams.
- The side finishing 12th (last) this season will be relegated to the K League Challenge.
- The side finished 11th will play in the Relegation Playoffs against a side from the K League Challenge over 2 legs (in November / December)
- Each of the K League classic teams will play each other 3 times before splitting in half and playing each other once more.
- Each team will play 33 games pre-split and 5 games post-split, so a total of 38 games.
- The season starts at the beginning of March and concludes in November.
- Sangju Sangmu & Suwon City FC have been promoted from the 2015 K League Challenge, whilst Busan I’Park & Daejeon Citizen have dropped down to the 2nd tier of Korean football.
- Finally there will be no long summer break this year, which is great news for those hoping to catch some action during the summer months.
K League Classic 2016 Prediction
Here is our prediction for the 2016 K League Classic season;Firstly all of the sides will be competitive this year and although the difference between the top and bottom is there, it isn’t the same as the Premier League (for example). A few sides have undergone changes, some maybe for the best and some maybe not. Still we feel that at this point of pre-season with only a few weeks to go this prediction is a pretty good estimation. Here are our very brief thoughts on each of the 12 sides:
Jeonbuk Hyundai – Jeonbuk have claimed back-to-back K League titles in recent years. They’ve signed a number of strong Korean players during the off-season most notably forward Kim Shin-Wook from Ulsan. They’re certainly the team to beat once again and that target might make life difficult however a hit-trick of titles cannot be counted out. (1st)
FC Seoul – Seoul have had issues the previous couple of seasons with slow starts which have cost them a real title challenge. This year they’ll be boosted by the return of record goalscorer Dejan Damjanović from China. They also have Brazilian Adriano and former Arsenal flop Park Chu-Young, giving them a scary looking attacking line. If they can start the season well they’ll be in a close title battle. (2nd)
Suwon Bluewings – Not since 2008 have Suwon Bluewings claimed K League glory, however they’ve finished runners-up the last 2 season. A lack of transfer activity has worried a few fans, but they’ve keep the core of their squad. Once again they’ll be a title race but might fall a little short. (3rd)
Pohang Steelers – The champions from 2013 improved last season and gained a champions league playoff place (and now group stage spot). Pre-Season press has focused on Korean-Russian goalkeeper Kim Roman who is tipped as one for the future. They seem to be at a similar point as last season and therefore another 4th place finish seems highly likely. (4th)
Jeju United – Strong at home and weak away sums Jeju United up almost every season. The issues with Kang Soo-il, hurt their hopes last season. They’ve made a few interesting but maybe untested signings recently and we see them once again finishing top half. (5th)
Incheon United – Incheon made some improvements both on and off the pitch last season, and made it to the FA Cup Final. Keeping hold of star defender Matej Jonjić could be key, however the loss of keeper Yoo Hyun maybe an issue. Raising Vietnamese starlet Lương Xuân Trường could be at least good for business. Once again a mid-table finish seems likely. (6th)
Ulsan Hyundai – A few years ago they won the champion league and only failed to take the K League title due to some end of season drama against local rivals Pohang. Fast forward to now and the funding from Hyundai seems to heading to Jeonbuk. The lose of key player Kim Shin-wook (to Jeonbuk) will hurt. They’ll be competitive but another mid-table finish seems more like a like outcome this year. (7th)
Seongnam FC – Seongnam have cast off doubts on their ability to compete at the level without non-citizen style funding. They finished last season in the top half and progressed to the final 16 of the champions league. However a few players have gone and not much has come back in. They looked solid on their US tour, but we see them finishing mid-table or lower this season, unless they bring in a few more players. (8th)
Jeonnam Dragons – They seem basically unchanged from last season, which might work for consistency. However they were average last season and without many improvements on the pitch we don’t see them doing any better this year. (9th)
Suwon City FC – They will be the first new side to join the K League Classic and first side to benefit from the expanded K League structure. They’ve made a few interesting new signing in the past month, Belgian international Marvin Ogunjimi and former Spanish Under 21 Jaime Gavilán standing out. However the core of the side is a little untested at this level and so they might do well but the jump in standard might be a different one. (10th)
Sangju Sangmu – The now 2 time K League Challenge champions (2013 & 2015), return to the Classic have a year in the 2nd tier. Sangju are the Korean Army side whose strength relies solely on which players are doing military service this year. Once again we see them finding the Classic a tough task. (11th)
Gwangju – They started their return to the K League Classic season surprisingly well last season, and that in the end saved them from a relegation battle. As their form dropped massively. In the post/pre-season they’ve not made many improvements, and so we cannot see them avoiding a relegation battle for another year. (12th)
We’d like to wish all 12 teams good luck this season and with the possibility once again of teams being relegated the bottom it’s as interesting at the bottom as it as the top. Also 2016 has a limited amount of sport going on (domestically anyway) and so the focus should be on the league.
Here are the fixtures for the opening weekend of the season (March 12th and 13th);
Useful Links for the 2016 K League Classic Season
K League Classic on Soccerway.com – Tables, Results & Fixtures.
K League Official English Website
More will be added…
If you have any comments, agree or disagree with our Prediction for the 2016 K League Classic please feel free to let us know. Also if you have any questions about the K League or football (soccer) in Korea in general please let us know, either via email, our Social Media Homes or by commenting below.