So, this was originally supposed to be a three-part series, but I’ll just post 12 different previews instead for shorter reads (plus maybe Seoul E-Land if people are interested).
A preview of the 12 K League Classic teams ahead of their season. First off, I begin with the capital club, FC Seoul.
First, some notes about the K League:
- Promotion and Relegation between 1st tier (K League Classic) and 2nd tier (K League Challenge).
- 12th place K League Classic = automatic relegation
- 1st place K League Challenge = automatic promotion
- 2nd-4th place K League Challenge = ladder playoff, winner to Promotion/Relegation Playoff
- 11th place K League Classic = Promotion/Relegation Playoff
- Promotion/Relegation Playoff – two legs, winner to K League Classic, loser to K League Challenge
- Top 3 Teams K League Classic = Asian Champions League berth (3rd place must play ACL playoff)
- Winner Korean FA Cup = ACL berth
- 4 foreign players allowed (3+1 Asian player)
- North Korean players count as South Korean players
- K League Classic = split season format. Triple round robin (33 games) and then split between top and bottom half. One more round robin within the half (5 more games). No bottom half team can finish higher than 7th, no top half team lower than 6th, after the split.
- All K League teams must include 2 U-23 players in matchday squad – 1 must start.
CLUB NAME: FOOTBALL CLUB SEOUL
In a nutshell…
City: Seoul Special City (Seoul Teukbyulshi)
Stadium: Seoul World Cup Stadium (66,806) (AKA Sang-am Stadium)
Average 2014 Attendance: 17,103 (2nd)
Manager: Choi Yong-Soo
Captain: Ko Myeong-Jin
Ownership: GS Group
Founded: 1983 (First season in 1984)
K League Championships: 5 (1985, 1990, 2000, 2010, 2012)
Korean FA Cups: 1 (1998)
Will participate in 2015 Asian Champions League, entered in Playoff Stage vs Ha Noi T&T, qualified for Group H with Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao, Western Sydney Wanderers, Kashima Antlers
FC Seoul has a history that has seen them play in numerous different cities, winning titles along the way.
The club began their revolutions around the sun in 1984 as Lucky-Goldstar Hwangso, calling the Chungcheong provinces home. They won their first title in 1985, before moving to Seoul, becoming the LG Cheetahs. Their first year in the capital bore fruits as they claimed a second title. The K League decentralization policy forced them out of the capital and to Anyang, where they won a 3rd title in 2000 thanks to bench boss, and future KNT manager, Cho Kwang-Rae. The franchise came back home in 2004 to Seoul after agreeing to pay a portion of the fees for the new Seoul World Cup Stadium, creating controversy and anger back in Anyang. They have since won two more titles in 2010 and 2012. Along the way, LG handed over ownership of the club to another conglomerate, GS (GoldStar).
The Super Matches are arguably the most anticipated games on the season calendar, pitting rivals Seoul and Suwon. It isn’t about the electronics market anymore (LG v Samsung) but this match remains just as heated all the same. Seoul also has derbies with Incheon United, a crowd-getting rivalry with Jeonbuk and perhaps a one to look forward to against Seoul E-Land FC as well as FC Anyang.
Former Famous Players/Managers: Yoo Sang-Chul, Choi Yong-Soo (as Player and Manager), Lee Eul-Yong, Park Chu-Young, Lee Young-Pyo, Ki Sung-Yueng, Lee Chung-Yong, Cho Kwang-Rae (as Manager)
2014 Season Result: 3rd Place (58 pts)
Seoul’s 2014 K League Classic season was lucky to say the least. They started off the season extremely poorly, with the team looking slightly uncomfortable with a back 3/5. Furthermore, they had a real inability to get the ball in the back of the net. An improbable charge to the semi-finals of the Asian Champions League didn’t reflect their poor domestic form. However, Seoul clicked when it mattered most and mounted an improbable charge to finish in 3rd, including some drama on the final matchday.
This year’s transfer window was a bit of a déja vu for Seoul supporters, as after the 2013 season, they lost striker Dejan Damjanovic and midfield lynchpin, and former captain, Ha Dae-Sung. This off-season, it was stalwart center-back Kim Ju-Young packing his bags for China, and Ko Myeong-Jin also looking to be on his way out. Cha Du-Ri, whose retirement is fast approaching, also considered foreign options. However, Ko and Cha were both persuaded to stay and signed. Other than this, however, Seoul have made no transfers in (save for holding midfielder Lee Seok-Hyun coming from Incheon), which indicates that Choi Yong-Soo is content with his current squad.
Sergio Escudero is also on his way out after being in the Seoul first team for quite a while. Some may argue it leaves Seoul weak in attacking depth, and although I’m not so sure, it still is a blow.
Players to Watch
RB Cha Du-Ri is inevitably one of Seoul’s key players. We all know his strengths – speed, strength and the ability to contribute dangerously in attack (him coming on in the Asian Cup against Uzbekistan for Kim Chang-Soo was considered an attacking substitution which is very telling) and is a decent defender as well. This will be his final season before retirement.
Lee Woong-Hee becomes a player to watch this season, the centre-back will suddenly be playing consistent first team minutes due to Kim Ju-Young’s departure – Seoul seem to be leaning to a back 4 this year.
Also, “The Patriot” Jung Jo-Gook is back from the Army. Known for his booming long shots, Jung will need to step up after the departure of Sergio Escudero.
Seoul’s Asian Champions League group sees them play against Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao and Western Sydney Wanderers. Both these teams are responsible for Seoul’s exit in the past two ACL’s – in 2014, losing to WSW in the Semi-Finals, and in 2013, losing to Guangzhou in the Finals.
Key to Success
Shorter Learning Curve: Last season Seoul had a slow start, and over the season they slowly got better, and my reasoning for this is because over the season, they got used to the 5-back system they were using. This year, they revert to a 4-back, and inevitably a different system. Seoul need to simply have a faster start with their new tactics, in a more attacking system.
Seoul have a very tough group in the ACL, with Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao and defending champions Western Sydney Wanderers (although their domestic form is hideous) in their group. This season, they will need to be more consistent with a weaker squad than the last, and although recent pre-season friendly results are encouraging, I worry about the team’s depth, juggling two competitions. Again, in a more attacking system, they need to hit the ground running, gain confidence. The sky then becomes the limit. But my gut says:
ACL RESULT: Group Stage Exit
K LEAGUE RESULT: 5th Place (These are just predictions, don’t lose your head, they’re always wrong)