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The most popular football clubs: Thailand

Kuala Lumpur: Thailand's top tier has produced many of the finest club teams from Southeast Asia for decades and is undoubtedly among the strongest in the ASEAN region.

With Thai League 1 set to resume on September 12, the latest edition of our 'most popular' series shines the spotlight on some of the country's biggest clubs and asks you, the fans, to tell us your favourite.

Below we've selected five teams based on both domestic and Continental success over the years. Review the nominees and cast a vote for your favourite at the bottom of the article.

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Buriram United

The most successful Thai club of the past decade by some distance, Buriram United as we know them today only came into existence in 2010. But ever since they have enjoyed a constant flow of silverware, featured international stars from Thailand and overseas and have performed better than any other side from the Southeast Asian country on the Continent during that period.

Previously known as Provincial Electricity Authority, the re-branded Buriram United, under an ambitious new ownership, finished their first season as runners-up in the league – a sign of things to come as they went on to become the dominant force. In total they have won six of the past nine Thai League 1 titles in addition to winning four FA Cups and five League Cups since 2011.

After making their AFC Champions League debut in 2012 they achieved their best performance in 2013 as they became the first Thai side to reach the knockout rounds since BEC Tero Sasana a decade earlier before being eliminated in the last eight. A Round of 16 appearance in 2018 was also a strong showing while they have recorded famous victories over top clubs including former champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Seongnam FC.

Dead-ball specialist Theerathon Bunmathan first displayed his considerable talent with the northeastern side, with goalkeeper Siwarak Tedsungnoen, Jakkaphan Kaewprom and the now departed Suchao Nuchnum having also played huge roles in their rise to prominence. Boasting more than 100 goals in four seasons with the club, Brazilian Diogo departed as a legend, while young Thai starlet Supachai Jaided is the bright hope for the future.

Muangthong United

A top-tier side since 2008, Muangthong United have been the second most successful club in their country since joining the elite. Indeed, after gaining promotion the Nonthaburi outfit won three league titles in four seasons between 2009 and 2012 as they established themselves as the powerhouse of Thai football prior to the emergence of Buriram.

Since then, they have finished top of the pile just once (2016) when a thrilling side replete with many of Thailand's national team players proved too good for the rest during a two-year period that ranks as good as any in their history. There was League Cup success in 2016 and 2017, the latter season also producing a runner-up finish in the league, although Muangthong have fallen slightly off the pace in recent years.

On the Continent, while Muangthong reached the AFC Cup semi-finals in 2010 and the quarter-finals a year later, nothing can top their 2017 AFC Champions League campaign. After recording famous victories over Kashima Antlers and Ulsan Hyundai, Totchtawan Sripan's side advanced to the last 16 before falling short against J1 League giants Kawasaki Frontale.

Chanathip Songkrasin enhanced his reputation with standout performances in that 2017 campaign, as did his Thai international teammates Theerathon, Teerasil Dangda and Kawin Thamsatchanan – all of whom earned moves abroad. In terms of foreign talent, gifted Macedonian Mario Gjurovski played well over 100 times for Muangthong and was a huge hit with the fans, while Cleiton Silva and Heberty – the league's all-time top two scorers – also excelled.

Port FC

Boasting one of the most passionate fan bases in Thai football, Bangkok-based Port FC were founded more than 50 years ago and, prior to the introduction of league football in Thailand in 1996, were among the most successful sides in the country, winning the Kor Royal Cup eight times.

Port have spent just two seasons outside the top flight since 1996 and, while they have yet to be crowned league champions, recent years have seen them put in strong challenges. In 2019, the Klong Toei team were involved in an enthralling four-way battle for the Thai League 1 title, ultimately falling just short as they finished third for the second successive season.

While that title bid failed, Port did finish the 2019 campaign by winning the FA Cup, defeating Ratchaburi Mitr Phol 1-0 in the final, to add to the title they won back in 2009. That success saw Port progress to the AFC Champions League's qualifying rounds, although they failed to make it beyond Ceres Negros, meaning a quarter-final appearance in the 2010 AFC Cup remains their strongest showing on the Continent.

A huge part of Port's recent success, Sergio Suarez has been among the goals and assists since arriving at the club and achieved legendary status by scoring the winning goal in last year's FA Cup final. Former Thai international Ronnachai Sayomchia is a club legend while the acquisitions of Charyl Chappuis and Heberty will excite fans for the season ahead.

Chonburi FC

After gaining promotion to Thailand's top flight for the first time in 2005, Chonburi FC soon established themselves among the top sides in the country. A year later they were crowned champions for the first and, to date, only time as they began an eight-year period where they would continually challenge for the league title.

In five of the following seven seasons, the Sharks finished runners-up but in recent years they have dropped off the chasing back as mid-table finishes have become the norm. In addition to the 2007 success, Chonburi claimed more silverware by winning the 2010 FA Cup after scoring in the last minute of extra-time to deal Muangthong United, who pipped them to the league title, a 2-1 defeat in dramatic fashion.

Chonburi appeared in the 2008 AFC Champions League although were eliminated at the group stage after coming within seconds of defeating eventual champions Gamba Osaka in Japan and then beating Australian champions Melbourne Victory in their first two games. The club has also reached the AFC Cup knockout rounds on three occasions, with a semi-final appearance in 2012 their best performance.

When it comes to legends look no further than Pibob On-Mo, who played more than 400 games for Chonburi between 2006 and 2018 and remains part of backroom staff to this day. Goalkeeper Sintharweechai Hathairattanakool was part of the 2007 team, has played more than 200 times for the club and is currently in his second spell, while Thersak Chaiman has also represented Chonburi with esteem. Brazilian Thiago Cunha, meanwhile, has been arguably their greatest import.

Chiangrai United

One of the newer clubs in Thai football, having only been founded in 2009, Chiangrai United have enjoyed a steady rise to prominence over the past decade. Promotion to the top flight was achieved in 2010 and, after establishing themselves in the league over the ensuing six years, success arrived three years ago and hasn't stopped since.

First major silverware came when the northern side defeated Bangkok United to win the 2017 FA Cup before they retained their title – as well as making it a double by winning the League Cup – by overcoming Buriram United in the final a year later. That trio of cup victories was a sign of things to come as Chiangrai showed they were ready to challenge for Thailand's top honour.

In what was the most fiercely competitive title race for some time, Chiangrai pipped Buriram United to the post on the final day of the 2019 campaign to finish ahead of their northeastern rivals by virtue of head-to-head record. Champions of Thailand, they gained automatic entry into the 2020 AFC Champions League, losing their tournament debut against Melbourne Victory, but after the competition's COVID-19 enforced hiatus will return to action in October.

Captain Phitiwat Sukjitthammakul joined in 2017 and has lifted four major trophies since, as is the case with fellow Thai international Sivakorn Tiatrakul, while youngster Ekanit Panya is the bright hope for the future. Journeyman Brazilian Bill is a huge fan favourite, with a hat-trick in the 2018 FA Cup final among his highlights, and former Korea Republic international Lee Yong-rae has added quality in the centre of the park.

Vote for your favourite club below (Poll ends at 1600 (UTC +8) on September 13).

Photos: Buriram United, Muangthong United, Port FC, Chonburi FC & Chiangrai United

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