Incheon United

인천 유나이티드 프로축구단 / Incheon United Football Club


  • Best League Finish: 2nd in the K League 1 (2005)
  • Best Korean FA Cup Finish: Finalists (2015)

Incheon United Football Club are a South Korean ‘community/citizen club’ that currently plays in K League 1, the highest level in the Korean football pyramid. They are based in the important port, transport hub, and industrial city of Incheon / 인천시 located in the far northwest corner of the country near the Korean capital of Seoul. Incheon is South Korea’s third most populous city with approximately 3 million people living in the coastal settlement. Incheon United currently plays its home games at the 20,891-capacity Incheon Football Stadium / 인천축구전용경기장, which is also known as Sungui Arena Park, and can be found in the west of the city, near the port district. Considered one of the best football stadiums in the country, the Sungui opened in 2012 and was used for the football tournament at the 2014 Asian Games, as well as hosting group and Round of 16 matches at the 2017 FIFA U20 World Cup.

Incheon United were founded in 2003 as the city’s government (who is the club’s main shareholder, hence the club is described as a ‘community or citizen club’) wanted to create a professional football team that would play at the multi-purpose Incheon Munhak Stadium, which was constructed for the 2002 FIFA World Cup and famously hosted South Korea’s 1-0 victory over Portugal in the group stage. The 49,084-capacity stadium was used by the football club for just seven years before their move to a smaller football-specific ground as the Munhak was considered too large for Incheon United and did not provide a good view for the spectators due to the running track located around the pitch.

The Incheon Football Stadium
[IMAGE: Courtesy of We Are IUFC]

Incheon started their debut season in 2004 where they finished in twelfth position overall but had an excellent second phase of the campaign which would be a precursor to their second season’s performance. Incheon finished as the best team overall during the two phases of the 2005 season, meaning they qualified for the end-of-season championship playoffs. They defeated Busan IPark 2-0 in the semi-finals but fell in the two-legged championship decider when they lost 3-6 on aggregate to Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i. That would be the Cranes‘ best league finish in their history so far.

Incheon United have played in the K League 1 for the whole of its history but has usually finished in mid-table or has had to successfully fight off relegation from the top flight. They have yet to win a major trophy during their history with their closest opportunity coming in the 2015 Korean FA Cup. Incheon defeated Bucheon FC 1995, Cheonan City, Jeju United, and Jeonnam Dragons (the latter two after extra time) to reach their first and only cup final. Sadly, two late goals from local rivals FC Seoul meant the capital-based club lifted the trophy in a 3-1 victory.

In recent times, the club gained a fierce reputation for always achieving the impossible ‘great escape’ and somehow avoiding getting demoted to K League 2, sometimes on the final day of the season, despite finding themselves in seemingly unsalvagable predicaments at times. Nonetheless, the past couple of seasons have seen an improvement in the club’s fortunes, much to the gratitude of the supporters’ nerves. In 2021, Incheon finished in the relative security of eighth position before they were the league’s surprise package last year. During the 2022 season, Incheon United achieved their best league finish since 2005 when they finished in fourth position, two points ahead of fifth-place side Jeju United, and qualified for the following year’s AFC Champions League. It will be the Blue-Blacks‘ first appearance in the continental competition in their history and they will be entering the tournament at the ACL playoff round.

To talk about a club that will be aiming to qualify for the group stage of the 2023-24 AFC Champions League, and was the surprise package in the K League 1 last year, we interviewed the excellent Luke from the superb We Are IUFC Twitter account. It is an English-language account that produces news and live matchday tweets on Incheon United. In addition, they are a writer for the English-language, South Korean football website K League United, and produce articles for the official K League website also. To read their articles, you can find the KLU website link, as well as find their social media channels in the links below:

Q. Firstly, how did you decide to start following and supporting Incheon United?

I moved to Incheon from a different part of Korea in early 2013 and started attending games at Sungui soon afterwards. Where I’d previously lived, the town didn’t have a professional team – or have one particularly close by – so K League was never really on my radar. But once I arrived in Incheon, I tried to attend as many games as possible and since around 2014, I’ve been attending regularly.

The Incheon Football Stadium
[IMAGE: Courtesy of We Are IUFC]

Q. From your time following the club, who has been your favourite player, and the reasoning behind your choice?

Stefan Mugoša

I think if you ask anyone who’s followed Incheon in the last ten years, their answer would be the same: Stefan Mugoša [31-year-old Montenegrin striker currently with J.League side Vissel Kobe after moving from Incheon in 2022]. Coming in from abroad and playing how he did, rescuing us in games as often as he did; it’s hard to choose anyone else. He connected with the fans and the people of the city like very few other overseas players have done. It’s uncommon for foreign players to spend a long time with the same team in K League, and that’s particularly true of Incheon’s overseas signings. For him to stay with us, through all of the relegation scraps, was a testament to his character. There’s a lot of discussion about a potential return, but whether that materialises or not, he’ll be an Incheon legend forever.

Q. Of the current squad, who would you say is the best player at the club and why?

Lee Myungjoo

Lee Myungjoo [32-year-old central midfielder and vice-captain who was signed from Emirati club Al Wahda in 2022] was Incheon’s stand-out player last year, and has had a good start this year too. He brings calmness and an experience to the team. He’s played at a high level for some big clubs and represented Korea too, which is apparent when watching him. He comes across as a natural leader and Incheon often needs that.

Q. Who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent at the club?

Kim Minseok
[IMAGE: Incheon Utd Website]

We have a couple of young players that have been in and around the first team in the last twelve months, and a lot of fans are hopeful they’ll be able to push on this year. The main potential break-though player is [20-year-old forward] Kim Minseok. He featured in half a dozen games towards the end of last year and managed to score. He’s an attacking player and doesn’t seem to have any fear. He’s willing to run at defenders and is also happy to have a shot from anywhere around the box. Incheon strengthened their front line over the winter break, but it would be good if he could get some minutes again this year. There’s also Park Hyunbin, a 19-year-old midfielder who plays for the Korea U20s team, and has also featured for the national team at U17 and U19 levels. He’s not played much for the Incheon first team, but it shouldn’t be long until he sees some game time.

Q. Who would you regard as Incheon’s biggest or historical rivals?

This one is a tough one because there are potentially two – and for different reasons. Seoul is the obvious choice because of its proximity. They’re our closest neighbours and there feels to be a genuine dislike for each other when the teams play. That said, the games against Suwon Bluewings tend to be more combative, more exciting, and generally more enjoyable. Whether at Incheon, or in Suwon, the atmosphere at games is more akin to what you’d expect from a derby.

Q. What would you say has been the best game, result, or performance during your time following the club?

Given Incheon’s performances historically, the best games have always come as the season draws to a close. Incheon have tended to need to win to stay up, so those games have everything: fast-paced football, a loud atmosphere in the stadium, and a win-or-die philosophy. The perfect example of this, for me, would be the final game of the 2016 season. An Incheon victory meant we stayed ahead of our opponents that day, Suwon FC, in 11th place (and leapfrogged Seongnam FC into 10th also) and avoided relegation at their expense. The final whistle was met with a pitch invasion, something which is commonplace in the UK, but not here. It was great. There have been a few other last-day miracle escapes, but none quite caused that same sense of relief.

Q. What do you think of the situation in Korean league football currently? Are there any improvements you would like to see happen?

There are a couple of things that could help the league improve and create a fairer system. The first would be to try and open up the pyramid a little more – perhaps include the K3 League into the mix and so we have three divisions with full promotion and relegation between them.

Leading on from that, the ridiculous nature of the Korean play-off system needs to be overhauled. At present, games before the final are one-legged, at the home of the higher-ranked team, and only require the home team to draw in order for them to progress. It’s weighted so strongly in the direction of someone finishing one place higher that it’s really unfair.

I think a system like the English Football league, with semi-finals and a neutral final – settled with penalties if needs be – would be fairer. I also believe that the relegation play-off could be scrapped. If you finish second bottom, you probably deserve to go down. It would also allow more movement of teams up and down, and make the league more exciting as there would be more to play for. At the moment, getting out of K League 2 is very, very tough as the odds are stacked against you.

Q. How would you describe the current performance or state of the club? How do you think this new season will go?

Last year was Incheon’s best in a decade. We finished in the top half of the league for the first time in ten years, we’ve qualified for the Asian Champions League, and there’s a huge amount of positivity around the club. We strengthened well over the winter and have brought in some good players. Although results haven’t really come in the first two games, there have been lots of positives. Hopefully, everything will fall into place once that first win is under our belts.

The 2022 K League 1 table.
[IMAGE: Wikipedia]

Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the club?

The best thing, as strange as it sounds, has been constantly performing miracles and avoiding relegation. We’ve had five or six years in the last ten where we could have been relegated on the last day and needed a result. That feeling at the final whistle when you’ve stayed up is incredible.

That aside, I really like the feeling of community within the club. There are a lot of people in the stadium who know each other and greet each other at games home and away. For me, seeing those familiar faces week in and week out is great. Particularly as a foreigner, it’s nice to feel accepted by folk who’ve lived in Incheon their whole lives.

The Incheon supporters in full voice.
[IMAGE: Courtesy of We Are IUFC]

Now, I’m not sure if it’s a “worst thing”, but it can be a bit disheartening when the attendances are low. For whatever reason, Incheon tend to struggle to break the 10,000 fans mark on a regular basis, and our average attendance in most seasons has been between 6,000 and 8,000. For a city of three million, it would be nice if more people turned up.

Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of Incheon United?

Progression. We’ve slowly moved away from needing a last-day win to stay in the league, finishing eighth in 2021, and then fourth in 2022. It would be nice, now, to make sure that we maintain that top-half finish for a few years and see if the club can grow. We’ll never have the money of the Hyundai clubs, but we have loud fans and a beautiful stadium. It would be nice to build up and solidify our position, and then see what could happen.

Incheon United looking forward to a successful 2023.
[IMAGE: Courtesy of We Are IUFC]

A massive thank you to Luke from the We Are IUFC Twitter account for answering our questions on the K League 1 side Incheon United. Remember you can find their social media accounts and articles on K League United in the links towards the top of the blogpage.

If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s