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What's changing in K League in 2024

What's changing in K League in 2024
What's changing in K League in 2024

There'll be a few changes in K League over the next couple of years, including the abolishment of the Asian player quota, an easing of the U22 player rule, and a new homegrown player system.

Changes to the U22 Rule

The "U22 rule," which reduces the number of substitutions a team can make if a player under the age of 22 (U22) does not start, will be partially eased only for K League 1 starting in 2024. The change takes into account the fact that the number of substitutions has increased from three to five from the 2021 season, and the number of K League 1 players who can be named on the bench from seven to nine from the 2024 season. Until this year, a team could only make two substitutions if a U22 player didn't start, and three if a U22 player started but another wasn't brought on as a substitute, but if two or more U22 players started or if one was named in the starting lineup and another came off the bench, then five substitutions could be made.

From 2024, though, even if a U22 player doesn't start, teams can still make three substitutions. Furthermore, if a U22 player starts then four changes can be made, likewise, if no U22 player starts but two are brought on as substitutes then four changes can be made. If two or more U22 players start or one starts and another comes off the bench then five substitutions can be made. In K League 2, though, the rules stay the same as they were.

There is also an increase in the number of personnel a team can have on the bench, up to 13 from 11 which can include coaches, support staff, and interpreters due to the changes in the foreign player quota.

Last Season For Asian Player Quota 

The 2024 season will be the last for K League's Asian player quota whereby teams can field an additional foreign player should they hold a passport of another AFC nation. Instead, from 2025, teams will be able to have one extra foreign player, regardless of nationality. This means that six foreign players can be named in the match-day squad with four able to start.

In K League 2, the ASEAN quota will remain, but teams will be able to field four foreign players from anywhere in the world plus one from an ASEAN nation. This decision has been made because the other top leagues in Asia - such as Japan, Saudi Arabia, China, Australia, and Qatar - do not presently have a similar Asian player quota.

In the 2024-2025 AFC Champions League, too, the Asian player quota will be abolished and there'll be no limits on fielding foreign players. However, K League decided to implement the change from the 2025 season after a one-year grace period, considering that many clubs currently have Asian quota players under contract in 2024.

K League's Homegrown System & Player Eligibility

Starting in 2025, K League will have a homegrown system and players of foreign nationality who have grown up in Korea will be considered domestic players when registering as rookies. Specifically, if a player who has been a member of a domestic amateur team registered with the Korea Football Association for a total of five years or more or three consecutive years until the age of 18 and signs up with a K League club as the first professional team, the player is considered to be a domestic player and excluded from the foreign player quota. Even after registration as a rookie player, they will be recognized as a domestic player when registering with a K League team. The system will be implemented in 2025, and one spot will be assigned per club at the beginning of its implementation with expansion up for consideration in the future.


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New TSG Chairman

With Park Tae-ha taking up the manager's job at Pohang Steelers, former Jeonnam Dragons manager Jeon Kyung-joon has been named as the K League Technical Study Group's (TSG) new Chairman. Jeon's playing career saw him play for Pohang, Bucheon SK, and Jeonbuk between 1992 and 2005, he also served as the head coach of the U20 and U23 national teams, and as a coach for the national team coach from July 2017 to 2018. He took the helm of Jeonnam from 2020 to June 2022, becoming the first K League 2 club to win the FA Cup. The new committee chairman will be in charge of the technical committee of the federation consisting of the TSG, Match Supervisor Group, and Facility Improvement Group.

Other Changes

If a U22 player receives a suspension due to yellow card accumulation or a sending-off and is called up to the national team, the team will not be exempt from the U22 rule.

The minimum basic salary of K League players has been raised to 27 million KRW ($20,000) from 24 million.

The transfer windows, or windows where teams can register new players, have been extended. Up until this year, teams had a total of 12 weeks to register new players - eight in the winter and four in the summer. However, starting this year, teams will have one extra week in winter and one in summer. This decision has been made while taking into account the possibility of players being transferred overseas and teams needing to find replacements. The winter transfer window closes on 8th March (nine weeks) and the summer window will run from 20th June until 31st July (five weeks).

If a game needs to be delayed just before kick-off due to bad weather or issues related to the facilities then the match supervisor will liaise with the clubs' officials and decide on delaying the game in two 30-minute increments. If a game needs to be postponed altogether then it can be rescheduled for the very next day.