A number of Chinese football clubs has ceased operations this year, but it is Tianjin Tianhai that arguably has the biggest impact of them all.
With Tianhai’s fate finally confirmed last week, with the club officially dissolving and the matter of owed money now being worked on, a number of changes have taken place in the middle kingdom’s two top leagues.
For the Chinese Super League, not too much has changed except for one club being exchanged for another. In this case, the 2020 CSL season will see Shenzhen FC return to the top flight, despite suffering relegation in 2019.
Roberto Donnadoni’s side have been preparing well for the 2020 season, regardless of which league they would ultimately compete in, signing a number of veteran players from the top tier including Gao Lin and Pei Shuai.
Their recruitment arguably gives Shenzhen a squad of a higher quality to that of last season’s, with them originally being the favourites to win the China League One title with relative ease.
Now, it looks as if their proactive preparations will put them in a stronger position to compete in the top tier.
The largest knock on effect, however, comes in the second tier, with the de facto favourites for promotion now being less clear, though a couple of teams could well be viewed in this way.
Beijing Renhe will of course be hoping to have a positive campaign in 2020 to try and secure promotion back into the top tier after being relegated, but they will face tough competition from some of the teams that missed out last season.
Guizhou Hengfeng and Heilongjiang Lava Spring may look to be some obvious candidates for strong promotion pushes this season thanks to their fourth and fifth-place finishes in 2019.
With head-to-head results seeing Guizhou edge out Heilongjiang, both clubs will be hoping they can take advantage of the somewhat ‘easier’ circumstances around the 2020 season, with Shenzhen no longer a factor.
But one club that will arguably come with the highest expectations after a disappointing final-day collapse, is Changchun Yatai.
Uzbek manager Samvel Babayan has constructed a team that is easily stronger than the one fielded by the Northeastern club last season, with a strong striker in Aaron Olanare being joined by Brazilian Serginho as well as some strong international experience coming in the form of Taiwanese captain Chen Po-Liang and Rao Weihui, who has yet to be officially announced by the club.
A ten-game unbeaten run last season had Changchun looking like the team to beat and ultimately, a disappointing end should spur the team on in 2020, with expectations of a championship now firmly in the minds of the fanbase.
With four clubs from the second tier ceasing to exist after last season, and with Shenzhen earning promotion back into the CSL, it has left a large gap needing to be filled ahead of the new campaign.
With the 2020 campaign aiming to have 18 clubs in the second tier, this will need seven clubs from China League Two promoted in order to work.
This significant change could arguably see the quality of opponents decrease, which is likely to present a distinct divide between the clubs at the top and bottom of the league.
This may provide for a competitive and exciting battle for promotion, but equally see more teams trying to secure their status in League One for another year.
The picture at the top end of China League One and arguably at the bottom of the CSL has been changed dramatically due to Tianhai’s dissolution and when the 2020 season does eventually start again, it could prove to be one of the most interesting in recent memory.