ACL-winning Kim a fan of expanded format as Sailors set sights on joining Asia's elite

Kim Do-hoon has embarked on a new adventure in Singapore with Lion City Sailors after leading Ulsan Hyundai to last season's AFC Champions League title. Asian Football Confederation

Having led Ulsan Hyundai to AFC Champions League glory in 2020, Kim Do-hoon has had to settle for the role of interested onlooker this season after leaving the K League 1 giants at the end of last year.

But if he has it his way, it will not be long before he returns to the highest level Asian football has to offer with new club Lion City Sailors, a cause that has been significantly aided by the tournament's recent expansion.

- Asian champions keen to follow Kim to Lion City Sailors

Having long featured 32 competing clubs, the ACL's expansion to 40 teams this season has seen many countries feature in the continent's premier club competition for the first time in a while -- or ever, for that matter.

The Singapore Premier League is no exception and, now boasting a guaranteed group-stage berth, Tampines Rovers became their first representative in the ACL since 2010.

With the Sailors currently second in the SPL and just a point behind leaders Albirex Niigata (S), Kim is optimistic they can follow suit as soon as next season.

"The expanded format allows more teams to be part of the ACL," the former Korea Republic international, who featured at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, told ESPN.

"If we can play there, we might not be able to bring immediate success but I think more about the experience the players get playing in these big matches.

"Yes, we might lose or we might win. It's all about how you prepare for the game.

"It's important to cherish the experience from these matches and use it to improve as players and a club."

It could certainly prove to be a steep learning curve if the current campaign is anything to go by.

Tampines were recently thrashed 9-0 by Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, while Philippine debutants United City were also handed a heavy 7-0 defeat at the hands of Daegu.

Nonetheless, Kim is confident he can shape the Sailors into a side capable of competing with the best teams in the continent.

"If we take the right steps, there should be great improvement as a team," he added.

"And, as we improve as a team, we will bring positive change to the footballing scene in Singapore.

"These big matches [in the AFC Champions League] will slowly but surely help the smaller teams close the gap between the powerhouses in Asia.

"Hopefully, with the time I'm given, I will be able to develop the Sailors into a team that is competitive in Asia as well."