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K League Promotion/Relegation Playoff: How It Works

With the regular K League Challenge season done and dusted with Gyeongnam FC crowed as Champions, the teams who finished second, third and fourth (Busan IPark, Asan Mugunghwa, and Seongnam FC) will take part in the Promotion Playoffs to determine who will go on to compete in the two-legged promotion/relegation playoff final for a place in the K League Classic.
(Picture Credit: Gangwon FC Facebook)


Background

With the inception of the K League Challenge in 2013, a promotion/relegation playoff was introduced by the League's governing body. In 2013 14 clubs competed in the K League Classic (first division) whilst eight teams made up the Challenge (second division). To even out the numbers, two teams were automatically relegated from the Classic that year, namely Daegu FC and Daejeon Citizen, who finished 13th and 14th respectively. Gangwon FC finished 12th and so competed in a two-legged playoff final against Sangju Sangmu who topped the Challenge table. Gangwon lost 4-2 on aggregate and so Sangju Sangmu were promoted and, consequently, Gangwon became the first team to be relegated under the new system.

In 2014, with 12 teams in the Classic and 10 in the Challenge, the system altered slightly so that one team would be automatically relegated to the Challenge, trading places with the team who would finish as Challenge Champions who would go up automatically. Whether or not two more teams would change places would depend on the promotion/relegation playoffs.

How It Works

The team that finishes second in the K League Challenge automatically qualifies for the Promotion Final and will play the winner of third versus fourth, who will go head to head in a one-off game with the team that finishes third at home. Also, the team that finishes 11th in the Classic will await the winner of the Promotion Playoffs, automatically qualifying for the Promotion/Relegation Playoff Final.

For example, in 2015 Daegu FC finished second in the Challenge and therefore advanced to the Promotion Final. Suwon FC finished in third place and Seoul E-Land in fourth and so went head-to-head in a Promotion Semi-Final at Suwon's Castle Park that was played over one leg. Home advantage pays dividend in the K League Challenge Playoffs semi-finals and so if the game ends in a draw, as it did in 2015 when Suwon FC and Seoul E-Land played out a 3-3 draw, the home team would advance. Suwon did just that and then played Daegu in Promotion Final in Daegu (home advantage for finishing second).  Suwon won and then went on to face Busan IPark, the team who finished 11th in the K League Classic. Whereas the Promotion Playoff games that only involve the K League Challenge teams are over one leg, the Promotion/Playoff Final itself is played over two.

2017

Busan IPark finished second and therefore will face the winner of Asan Mugunghwa and Seongnam FC. After the K League Classic season is concluded on 19th November, the team who finishes 11th will have to play in the two-legged Promotion/Relegation Final, the winner of Asan Mugunghwa/Seongnam or Busan IPark.


History

Every year since the Promotion/Relegation Playoffs were introduced in 2013, it has been the Challenge team that has won and gone on to win promotion and, as a result, relegating a second Classic team. 

2013 Sangmu Sangmu (Challenge) 4-2 Gangwon FC (Classic)
2014 Gwangju FC (Challenge) 4-2 Gyeongnam FC (Classic)
2015 Suwon FC (Challenge) 3-0 Busan IPark (Classic)
2016 Gangwon FC (Challenge) 1-1* Seongnam FC (Classic)
* Gangwon won on away goals

All scores are on aggregate after two legs.

Playoff Dates Confirmed: here

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