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Jeonbuk Hyundai +110 Favorites to Win Fourth-Straight Title in South Korean K-League 1

Ryan Metivier

by Ryan Metivier in Soccer News

Updated Mar 16, 2021 · 7:57 AM UTC

Swansea vs Middlesborough
The ball is seen during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
  • The South Korean K-League 1 soccer season is set to kick off on Friday, May 8, 2020
  • All coronavirus tests on players, coaching staff and support staff taken between April 27-29 tested negative
  • Read on for the odds for each team to win the title and a breakdown of key betting points for this season

The 12-team South Korean K-League 1 is gearing up for its season to begin this Friday, with its opening match featuring Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Suwon Bluewings at 6:00 am EST. Three more matches will take place on Saturday morning, followed by the final two on Sunday.

With the Korean time difference, if you’re hoping to watch some of these games, most game times look to be between 1:00 am and 6:00 am EST. While most matches will be broadcast on JTBC, some will be shown on skySports and other outlets as well.

After a two-month delay to begin the year due to the coronavirus, the regular season kicks off with defending champions Jeonbuk listed as the +110 favorites, followed by last year’s top regular season team Ulsan at +225.

The league will be played behind closed doors and has shortened the regular season to 22 games, down from 33, prior to the championship and relegation rounds.

South Korean K-League 1 Odds

Team 2019 Regular Season Ranking (Pts) Odds to Win
Jeonbuk Hyundai 2nd (68) +110
Ulsan Hyundai 1st (69) +225
Seoul 3rd (54) +800
Pohang 5th (48) +1200
Suwon Bluewings 8th (40) +2000
Daegu 4th (50) +2500
Gangwon 6th (46) +2500
Seongnam 9th (38) +6600
Sangju 7th (46) +10000
Gwangju 1st *2nd Division (73) +15000
Incheon 11th (26) +15000
Busan IPark 2nd *2nd Division (67) +20000

Odds taken May 5

Jeonbuk Claims Title Once Again in 2019

Jeonbuk were crowned champions last season despite finishing one-point behind Ulsan in the regular season. The league sends the top six teams into a championship round where they play five additional matches. After those rounds of matches each team was level on 79 points, however, Jeonbruk had scored 72 total goals, compared to Ulsan’s 71. The result was decided on the final day when Ulsan only needed a draw to win the title but lost 4-1.

Ulsan’s Junior Negrao, a Brazilian, tallied 16 times during the regular season and added another three during the championship round. He’s the consensus favorite among K-League prognosticators to be Attacker of the Year in 2020. Also scoring 16 times during the regular season was Suwon’s Adam Taggart, a native of Australia. Suwon were last year’s Korean FA Cup winners.

That title placed them in the AFC Champions League alongside Jeonbuk, Ulsan and Seoul.

Jeonbruk has been a model of consistency in K-League 1, a league that has been in existence since 1983. While historically it is Seongnam FC who have been most successful with seven titles and three runners-up finishes, Jeonbruk is right there alongside them with seven titles of their own, and two runners-up finishes.

Jeonbruk has also been the dominant team in recent years. Last year’s title makes them champs now three years running and they’ve now won five of the past six years. Last year was actually the first time since 2013 that they did not finish first after the regular season.

The lone season which did not see them crowned champs in the past six seasons was 2016. While they were first after the regular season, Seoul edged them out (70-67 in points) after the championship round.

Seoul themselves have also been historically competitive, with six titles and five runners-up finishes.

Another side usually among the contenders is Ulsan. They haven’t won a title since 1997, but have finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 4th after the championship round each of the past four years. They, of course, were also regular season champs last year. 2019’s second place finish was their first since 2013.

Betting Trends

In addition to the stats shared in the below tweet, I think it’s worth noting that while UNDER 2.5 goals hit 52-percent of the time, most teams were able to score on a consistent basis. 10 of the 12 sides all scored more goals than games played, while nine of the 12 allowed more goals than games played.

The best UNDER team was Seongnam, scoring just 25 and conceding 36, good for an average of only 1.85 GPG in their matches. Outside of some of the higher scoring teams the top of the table, sides like Gangwon (48GF/47GA) and Sangju (42GF/48GA) saw higher average totals in their matches at 2.88 and 2.77 respectively.

Promoted Sides

New to the league this season are Gwangju, who finished first in the K2 League last season with 73 points to earn automatic promotion. Busan IPark finished second with 67 points and earned promotion through a playoff.

Gwangju finished with a 21-10-5 record, scoring 59 goals and conceding 31 times. Gwangju’s 31 goals allowed was the stingiest defense in the K2 with the next closest team allowing 42. Their last participation in Korea’s top-flight league was in 2017 when they finished at the bottom of the table with a 4-11-18 record.

Busan earned an 18-13-5 record, scoring 72 and allowing 47. They were the top offensive team in the league as only one other team even hit the 60-goal mark (63), which was nine goals behind their total. Busan haven’t played in the K-League 1 since 2015 when they finished 11th with a 5-9-19 record.

These two teams will replace Gyeongnam and Jeju United who were relegated last season. Each of those teams oddly had recent second place finishes in the K-League 1, Gyeongnam (2018) and Jeju (2017).

Relegation Candidate

I say candidate vs candidates, as due to relocation in 2021, Sangmu will be automatically relegated. While I can’t pretend to have a deep grasp of all the K-League teams, but 7/10 predictors on the K-League website are picking Seongnam FC to go down, so… there’s that. Seongnam finished ninth in the regular season last year with a 10-8-15 record and 38 points.

Best Title Bets

This league doesn’t seem to be one that offers many different winners, especially in this current age of Jeonbuk dominance. There seems to be little reason not to take the defending three-time champs at +110 odds.

However, second-choice Ulsan came oh-so-close last season and may just possibly be able to make the extra push to claim the title. Their +225 odds are definitely more appealing. Ulsan welcomes Lee Chung-yong to the team this year, a past Premier League player and veteran of two World Cups. They’ve also added national team goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo and acquired midfielder Yoon Bitgaram.


However, they lost team MVP Kim Bo-kyung to rivals Jeonbuk. The champs have also added South African international and former Eredivisie man Lars Veldwijk from Sparta Rotterdam, who’s expected to make an immediate impact in the league.

I’d say Jeonbuk looks the safest bet but if you want to root for an upset and get a little better value than Ulsan should become your newly-adopted K-League 1 team for the year.

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