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(News Focus) Addition of 10th team to bring changes to KBO

All Headlines 10:49 January 17, 2013

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Jan. 17 (Yonhap) -- The addition of a new, 10th club to the country's top baseball league in 2015 is expected to bring major changes in the league structure and scheduling, officials said Thursday.

Owners of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) clubs on Thursday approved the expansion plan put together by the telecom giant KT and the city of Suwon in Gyeonggi Province. The new club will spend the 2014 season in the minor competition called the Futures League before joining the top division KBO in 2015.

KBO officials said they began preparing for the possibility of having 10 clubs in 2015 before the owners' approval, and explained structural changes to the league will be determined at a meeting of KBO club presidents early in 2014.

According to the league officials, the current team representatives would prefer to run a single, 10-team league, rather than have two divisions or conferences with five teams each. In the divided setting, each division will end up with an odd number of clubs, which will lead to scheduling conflicts for intra-division matches.

The total number of games per club will also be affected. In 2013, with the addition of the expansion NC Dinos, teams will each play 128 games, down from 133 in 2012.

Then with another team in 2015, clubs will each play anywhere between 126 and 144 games, one KBO official said.

"If teams play each other 14 to 16 times a season, then our numbers will be 126, 135 or 144 games per season," the official explained. "We will have to take into account our climate and off-season international events such as the Asia Series (a tournament among league champions from Asia)."

The playoff structure also faces modifications. Currently, the top four among nine teams will play in the postseason. The regular season champion advances straight to the championship Korean Series, while the No. 2-ranked team gets the bye to the second round. The third and fourth-seeded teams clash in the first round, with the winner moving on to the second round.

KBO officials say team executives are mostly opposed to expanding the playoffs. At most, they may add one extra spot and allow half of the league to compete in the playoffs.

According to a second KBO official, team officials may tweak the current four-team playoff structure and not give any byes to the top two-ranked clubs.

"One possible change is to pit the No. 1 seed against the No. 4 seed on one side, and have the second seed play the third seed on the other side," the official said, referring to a playoff system used by major North American sports leagues.

According to the official, under a possible five-team playoff in the KBO, the regular season champ will receive the bye to the Korean Series, while the first rounds will feature No. 2 versus No. 5 and No. 3 against No. 4 seeds.

"We will decide later whether or not we will give an advantage to the first-place team," the official added. "We will have to carefully go over ways that can best help sell tickets."

Critics of the current system have said the regular season champion is granted an unfair advantage over others. The first-place clubs have won 20 out of 24 championships since the current four-team playoff was introduced in 1989.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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