Is the K League ready for the rapidly changing ACHAM and Club World Cup[Kim Sehun’s Sports IN]?

The prize pool for the AFC Champions League Elite, the top club competition in Asian men’s soccer, has been significantly increased to $12 million. Starting in the 2024-2025 season, the top club in Asia will earn a whopping 16 billion won. That’s just one year away.

There are 24 teams in the Champions League Elite. 온라인카지노 Saudi Arabia and Japan received three direct tickets. South Korea, China, Qatar, and Iran got a “2+1” ticket: two direct and one playoff. Direct tickets are awarded to the league champions and FA Cup winners. One playoff spot goes to the league runner-up. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Uzbekistan, Iraq, Thailand, Australia, and Malaysia earned one direct or ‘1+1’ ticket. Clubs from other countries will not compete in the Champions League elite at all.

AFC Champions League Elite participation by country for the 2024-2025 season. Wikipedia

South Korea lost its Asian spot to Saudi Arabia and Japan. South Korea slipped from second to third in Asia after the Asian Football Confederation changed the way it calculates club rankings from the sum of the last four years’ results to the sum of the last eight years’ results, with more weight given to recent results. Saudi Arabia and Japan have recently invested heavily in their national leagues. It’s a bit of a slap in the face for the K League, but it’s a slap in the face.

After all, the winners of this year’s K League and FA Cup go directly to the Champions League elite for the 2024-2025 season. The second-place finisher in the K League also qualifies if they win the playoffs. The championship prize of 16 billion won is almost as much as the entire salaries of the Ulsan Hyundai (17.7 billion won in 2022) and Jeonbuk Hyundai (19.7 billion won in 2022) squads. Jeju, the third-ranked team in K League 1 in total salary, earns only 12.7 billion won. The average total annual salary is 11 billion won.

The Club World Cup, organized by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), will also grow in size. From the current seven or eight teams, the Club World Cup will be expanded to 32 teams from 2025. Only four clubs from Asia will compete in the Club World Cup. 2021 Asian Champions League winners Al-Hilal (Saudi Arabia) and 2022 champions Urawa Reds (Japan) have already qualified. The remaining two spots will be awarded to the Champions League winner of the 2023-2024 season and the top Asian club ranking for the last four years. If a Korean club doesn’t make it to the top of Asia in the coming years, it could become a Club World Cup spectator forever.

The weight of the Asian Champions League is not limited to the prize money. Saudi Arabia has recruited high-profile players and coaches to revitalize its domestic league, including Cristiano Ronaldo (Al-Nasr), Neymar (Al-Hilal), Karim Benzema-N’Golo Kante (Al-Ittihad), and Steven Gerrard (Al-Ettifaq). They could face off against the Korean clubs. If the Korean club wins, the league, club, and sponsor recognition and stature will increase, and the additional tangible and intangible income will be enormous.

Is Korea strategically prepared for the Asian Champions League and Club World Cup, which are on the verge of major changes, or is it still stuck in the illusion of being the strongest in Asia, willfully ignoring external changes and insisting on our own league and our own way. Will Samsung, GS, SK, and POSCO invest in soccer again, or will we continue to look to Hyundai?

The future of Korean professional soccer is hopeful or hopeless, and it will be decided in just a year or two.

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