After a mixed debut season, the Thai FA plans to expand the ASEAN quota available for Thai clubs in the 2019 campaign. This season, Thai League clubs were allowed a maximum of five foreign players under what was known as the “3+1+1” system: three unconditional slots, one slot reserved for players of other AFC countries, and a final slot exclusively from other players within the ASEAN economic zone.
Despite drawing criticism from some corners for restricting the ability of clubs to import top foreign talent, the FA have used the success stories of Myanmar’s Aung Thu at Police Tero and the Philippines’ Michael Falkesgaard at Bangkok United to justify an expansion of the quota for next season.
Under the new regulations, the system will now include two additional ASEAN slots, forming a “3+1+3” system, taking the total number of foreign players allowed by Thai League clubs up to seven.
The intention of the ASEAN quota is to grow Thailand’s popularity amongst their neighbouring nations, as well as position the Thai League as the major footballing destination in the region.
Defending champions and 2018 title favourites Buriram United have already been preparing for an expansion of the quota for the upcoming season. The club signed Filipino star Javier Patino from Henan Jianye, offering him a return to the club where he scored 35 goals from 54 appearances between 2013 and 2015.
In preparation for next season, the club acquired Patino’s countryman Luke Woodland, before subsequently loaning him to relegation-threatened Suphanburi. The Thunder Castle have also bolstered their squad for next season with the signing of 21-year-old Cambodian midfielder Cherng Polroth, who already has 23 national team caps to his name despite his youth.
This change in legislation from the Thai FA is expected to spur a scramble to pick up the best ASEAN talent ahead of the upcoming season, many of whom are currently on display at the 2018 Asian Games currently ongoing in Indonesia.