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A look at the 2023 K League 2 promotion run-un

With just two more rounds to go in the 2023 Hana 1Q K League 2 season the automatic promotion and playoff race are tighter than ever. Busan IPark and Gimcheon Sangmu are part of the two-horse title race but any two from five could seal the last two playoff spots.
It's been one of the most closely contested K League 2 title races in recent memory and with fifth now earning a place in the playoffs, even some of the mid-table teams have a chance to extend their seasons. What's the current state of play, and why does league positioning matter?

Finishing second place in K League 2 means a direct two-leg playoff with the team that finishes 11th in K League 1, unlike pre-2022 when second would play the winner of third versus fourth. 

Finishing third means a bye through to a semi-final of sorts and home advantage. Third will play the winner of fourth versus fifth at home over one leg and will only need to draw to advance.

Finishing fourth means home advantage in the match against fifth, again with a draw is enough to go through. The winners of third versus fourth or fifth then plays 10th in K League 1 over two legs.

Title race

1st Busan IPark 


Busan are in the driving seat heading for automatic promotion into the last two rounds, sitting top of the table two points clear of Gimcheon. However, with Gimcheon having scored 20 goals more than them, Busan cannot rely on goals scored to get them through should they finish level on points. Both of Busan's last two matches are against teams who are still in the race for the playoffs and they have one just one of the four previous matches this season.

Run-in: Jeonnam Dragons (a) DW, Chungbuk Cheongju (h) DD

2nd Gimcheon Sangmu


Gimcheon Sangmu may end up winning promotion in the same way that they suffered relegation - a playoff against 11th in K League 1. But Chung Jung-yong's men won't have given up on the title just yet given that they are only two points behind Busan. Gimcheon have Gyeongnam and Seoul E-Land in their last two matches, only Gyeongnam have something to play for. Their record this season against Gyeongnam and Seoul E-Land bodes well with just one loss and three wins.

Run-in: Gyeongnam (a) LW, Seoul E-Land (h) WW

Battle for third 

3rd Gimpo FC


Gimpo have already sealed a place in the playoffs; that was confirmed a couple of rounds ago with a 2-1 win over Jeonnam. But, they haven't sealed third yet. Bucheon are out of the running for third as they only have one game left and sit five points behind Gimpo. Gyeongnam, six points behind Gimpo, could still technically finish third if they win both their last two games and Gimpo lose both of theirs. But at present, Gimpo look on course to finish third and will seal it should they beat Cheonan City in their penultimate match of the campaign. Gimpo are unbeaten against their remaining opponents this season.

Run-in: Cheonan City (a) WW, Gyeongnam FC (h) DD

Fourth place

4th Bucheon FC 1995


Bucheon can only finish as high as fourth as they only have one match left to play this season and are five points behind third. They sit out the next round and return to action on the final day, taking on a Jeonnam side that may still have a shot at finishing fifth. But with a run of four without a win, Lee Young-min's side are in danger of falling out of the top five altogether. The final day showdown with Jeonnam could well decide the last playoff spot. 

Run-in: Jeonnam Dragons (a) WL

5th Gyeongnam FC


Gyeongnam, occupying the last playoff spot, could end up finishing fourth if they can continue their recent upturn in form. The Roses' run-in is tough, though, with matches against promotion-chasing teams. Seol Ki-hyeon's men are only three points clear of sixth and their goals scored tally is only one goal more than Jeonnam; Gyeongnam, even with third still possible, have no margin for error and have won just once against their last two opponents this term.

Run-in: Gimcheon Sangmu (h) WL, Gimpo FC (a) DD

FNR


Battle for 5th

With two games left, Jeonnam Dragons, FC Anyang, and Chunbuk Cheongju all have a chance of reaching the playoffs. Anyang and Cheongju will need to win both their last two matches and hope that results elsewhere go in their favour.

6th Jeonnam Dragons 


The Dragons have a tough run-in with Busan first up then Bucheon on the final day. Jeonnam have been unable to put together a run of wins which could prevent them from extending their season but the 3-0 win over Chungbuk Cheongju was a real statement. They haven't beaten Busan this season but have at least beaten Bucheon.

Run-in: Busan IPark (h) DL, Bucheon FC 1995 (a) LW

7th FC Anyang


It has been a difficult season for FC Anyang after initially looking like dead certs for the playoffs, to then losing two first-team stars in Jonathan Moya and Andrigo and dropping out of the top five altogether. Luckily for Lee Woo-hyung's men, they have the easiest run-in with matches against the current bottom two. The first is the Line 4 Derby against Ansan Greeners then it's Cheonan City, against whom they are unbeaten.

Run-in: Ansan Greeners (a) DD, Cheonan City (h) WD

8th Chungbuk Cheongju


Chungbuk Cheongju's loss to Jeonnam Dragons last time out has left the K League newcomers with a mountain to climb. They're now on a run of four without a win and look set to finish eight this season. Their run-in sees them take on Chungnam Asan, a side they lost to only a couple of weeks ago, and current league leaders Busan who they drew with twice.

Run-in: Chungnam Asan (h) LL, Busan IPark (a) DD

K League 2 table heading into R38 (via KLeague.com)


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