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2017 K League Challenge Grades

Gyeongnam FC's tenacious run to the title ensures them top spot in this year's K League Challenge grades, but a number of teams below them had strong seasons as well. Along with a few representatives holding their own in our 2017 Season Awards, we have a full list of grades for all 10 Challenge teams. Look over our staff's assessment and leave your thoughts in the comments below!
(image via KLeague.com)

Gyeongnam FC: A+

Champions with three games to spare says it all.  We had quality all over the pitch and scored goals at will with the creativity and pace from our midfield made Marcão's life as top goal scorer so much easier.
- James Edrupt  (@edrupt_james)

Busan IPark: A

The aim at the start of the season was promotion, and as things stand Busan are still in with a chance. On top of that, they've seen off four Classic teams in a remarkable run to the FA Cup Final. With such a strong squad, some will be disappointed they didn't run Gyeongnam closer for the title, but if promotion is achieved that won't matter a bit and you can call it an A+.
- Tomas Marcantonio  (@TJMarcantonio)

Asan Mugunghwa: A-

A year after rightfully winning the league and being denied promotion on the (precarious) grounds of relocating to Asan, the police put in another solid performance in spite of losing a slew of talent yet again. Had Gyeongnam not run away with the title this year, Asan would have been one of three teams seriously contending for the top spot. In the end, their dreadful summer run of 4 wins in 15 doomed them. However, a strong showing in the playoffs and a marvelously talented group of players coming in next season suggests Asan will be back near the top in 2018.
- Ryan Walters (@MrRyanWalters)

Bucheon 1995: B

After last season's 3rd place it was back to mid-table mediocrity this term but given the departure of several key players in the off-season and a brand new unproven manager taking over, still being in the play-off hunt on the final day of the season is a success of sorts. Only Gyeongnam and Busan scored more goals with Waguninho and Jin Chang-soo banging in plenty but the fact that they could only manage to win one of their final four games, all against teams with little to play for, suggests that 5th is about right for Bucheon.
- Alastair Middleton  (@korearacing)

Ansan Greeners: B-

Ansan 3.0 hardly set the league alight, but a respectful points haul sets a solid foundation going forward for this new project. Growing the home attendance numbers and having a decent striker can be seen as a historical advance, and despite the inconsistency, the team has set a benchmark that is probably the most exciting in the history of Ansan football. Last year’s league win under the police franchise was never going to be repeated with a brand new (if a little dolphiny) squad, so for the realist and long suffering fan the season has to go down as a good one, even if a glance at the table suggests otherwise. Mid-table in 2018 is the next step! #CoA
- Mike Brandon  (@ansanfsc)

Seongnam FC: D+

I think that given Seongnam were among a lot of people's picks for 1st or 2nd before a Challenge ball was even kicked then finishing 4th could only be seen as failure. But given the fact that they only managed 2pts from their first 8 matches then to even be in with a shout of a playoff spot come October was something to praise Park for. Of course their lackluster and downright heartless playoff performance against Asan means that a D+ is all they should be awarded and told to do more class prep next time.
- Mark Kelly (@kleague_kilt)

Seoul E-Land: D

When the team was founded just over three years ago, this was to be year they qualified for AFC Champions League. Missing such a lofty goal isn't why this team should be hanging their head for the third winter in a row as much as the fact that they failed to even qualify for the playoffs. A brutal start to the season with just three wins in their first 23 matches doomed them to second division yet again. However, their 14 draws were tied for the most in Challenge and should the promising late season form of Alex and Choi Ohbaek continue next year, then there's a decent chance they could turn some of those draws into wins. But the clock is certainly ticking on this club, and next year needs to be much much better.
- Ryan Walters (@MrRyanWalters)

Suwon FC: D-

Having come back down from the Classic and keeping a core of their better players, Suwon FC were seen as genuine promotion contenders in 2017. However, for one reason or another it never quite panned out like that. Disruptions as a result of the U20 World Cup didn't help, nor did the upheaval brought about by the departure of long-serving coach Cho Dukje which then sparked a long drawn out search for a new boss. Given the talent they had within the squad, Suwon will look back on this season with a deep sense of regret that they didn't at least reach the playoffs.
- Paul Neat (@neatpaul)

FC Anyang: D-

Unlike many of their Challenge counterparts, FC Anyang are a club with very few expectations placed upon them. Last season the Violets finished 9th and we gave them a D. This season Anyang finished 7th but amassed less points than last year and they can't use Chungju Hummel and Goyang Zaicro's departures as an excuse as Anyang failed to beat them at all last term. So, a D- seems fair for a team that made a modest mid-season push towards the playoffs but never really looked destined to finish any higher than mid-table.
- Paul Neat (@neatpaul)

Daejeon Citizen: U

For finishing 7th last year despite having the League's top marksmen, Daejeon were awarded an F. This season could not have gone any worse for Citizen, having propped the K League pyramid up for the majority of the campaign despite the squad that Manager Lee Youngik had at his disposal. Frankly, finishing bottom of the league is unacceptable and therefore Daejeon aren't even in a position to be awarded a grade. U for un-gradable, U for unacceptable.
- Paul Neat (@neatpaul)

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