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What's new in K League in 2023?

The new season is exactly one month away and while a winter start is something that isn't too much of a departure from the norm for K League fans, there are some new additions and changes for the 2023 season.

Foreign player quota increased

K League 1 teams are now permitted to sign and register six foreign players in a 5+1 format. Five can be from any country while the additional one must be from an Asian Football Confederation nation. However, not all six can be on the field at the same time. They can, however, be named in the matchday squad with managers having the option to swap one foreign player for another on the bench.

Daegu FC have become the first K League 1 club to completely fill their quota following the signings of Edgar, Marcos Serrato, and Lucas Barcellos who join Cesinha, Daniel Penha, and Keita Suzuki. Ulsan aren't far off either and need just one more player.

New teams in K League 2

Choi Yun-kyum will lead K League 2 newcomers Chungbuk Cheongju in 2023
There will be two new teams joining K League 2 in 2023 - Cheonan City and Chungbuk Cheongju - to make 13 in total. Both teams come from the Chungcheong provinces or the greater Hoseo region, Cheonan in the south and Cheongju in the north - the "buk" in "Chungbuk" meaning "north." 

Both are big cities, too, meaning they should have a big enough catchment area to draw fans in. Cheonan has a population of over 660,000 while Cheongju's is around 830,000. The city of Cheonan has had a K League team before, of course - namely Cheonan Ilhwa Chunma (later Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma then Seongnam FC) and, for a brief spell in 2019, Seoul E-Land. 


This current Cheonan team was founded in 2008 and has been in the third tier ever since, first the National League and then K3 when the former merged with the latter. They finished as runners-up in K3 in 2021, and in 2013 and 2017 in the National League. Last year, Cheonan finished 10th out of 16 and Cheongju finished 14th.

Chungbuk Cheongju were founded in 2002 as Cheongju FC and played in the K3 League and K3 Challengers leagues up until 2016 and the K3 Advanced and K3 League from 2017 to 2022. Last season they finished 14th out of 16.

36-game K League 2 season

An odd number of teams means one team in K League 2 will have to sit a round out. Whereas in 2022, teams played each other four times for a 44-game campaign, in 2023 they will play each other three times for a 36-game campaign.

Suspended managers banned from dressing rooms

Managers serving touchline bans will no longer be able to enter the dressing room on matchday. Managers will also be banned from attending matchday press conferences and conducting interviews and a stand-in must be nominated instead. In other staff news, sports scientists have been added to the list of backroom staff a team can register with the league.

New AFC Champions League Format

Jeonbuk came close to making the 2023-2023 final
For Ulsan Hyundai, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Pohang Steelers, and Incheon United fans in particular, one change to take note of is that there's a new ACL format. After three years of playing in a bubble or hub due to the pandemic, the 2023-2024 campaign will revert back to home and away matches for the group stage. However, the competition won't begin until August and not January or February as was the case pre-pandemic, starting with the preliminary rounds on the 8th and 15th of the month, the playoff on 22nd of August (Incheon United), and then the group stage in mid-September.

As is the case for the 2022-2023 competition, the knockout stages will take place the following year starting in February for the Round of 16 and then March, April, and May for the quarters, semis, and final respectively. 

The knockout stages for the west side of last season's competition still haven't taken place yet meaning it could be any one of Al-Hilal, Shabab Al-Ahli, Al-Shabab, Nasaf Qarshu, Al-Duhail, Al-Rayyan, Al-Faisaly, or Foolad who takes on J.League's Urawa Reds at the end of April and start of May.

Sources:, AFC

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