Runners-up again, Bangkok United left wondering if they're fated to never be champions of Thailand

As the 2023-24 Thai League 1 campaign came to a close at the weekend, Bangkok United once again had to settle for a runners-up finish for the fourth time in the past eight seasons. Bangkok United FC

So near yet so far. That is again the story for Bangkok United in their quest to become champions of Thailand.

Only once before in the club's history has it happened -- in 2006, when they were still known as Bangkok University.

Since the rebranding to Bangkok United, they are yet to reclaim the spot at the Thai League 1 summit, but they certainly have come close.

In eight campaigns since 2016, the Bangkok Angels have finished runners-up on four occasions. There were also a couple of third-place finishes and they are yet to drop out of the top five.

Their consistency is commendable but the fact of the matter remains they just keep coming up short.

And it must leave them wondering if it is in their destiny to ever go the distance.

Unlike in the 2022-23 campaign, when Buriram United never relinquished top spot by the 9th round of fixtures, it promised to be a different story this season.

Even past the halfway mark of the campaign, as recently as February, Bangkok United were still leading the way. A short time before that, Buriram were as low as fourth on the table.

But as the inevitable Buriram surge arrived, Bangkok United could not have found a worst time to dip in form.

Last weekend, a 3-0 loss to already-relegated Police Tero -- who were dead last in the standings heading into the tie -- handed the title to Buriram without them even having to kick a ball.

That unthinkable defeat meant the Bangkok Angels only picked up five wins in a 17-game run that eventually proved fatal to their prospects.

As they finished their league campaign on Sunday with a 3-0 win over Uthai Thani, Bangkok United would ultimately finish seven points adrift of Buriram.

Perhaps the best epitome of just where they fell short is in the two meetings they had with the eventual champions in January and March, where they fell to single-goal defeats both home and away.

Bangkok United, like Buriram and other leading lights such as Port and BG Pathum United, are evidently way ahead of the rest of the field.

They are just not at Buriram's level yet -- in terms of consistency, that uncanny ability to rise to a big occasion, and the ever-crucial title-winning know-how.

Yet, it is far from a wasted season for the Pathum Thani-based outfit -- and it is a remarkable story how a team formed for students has made their way through university and provincial football to becoming the cream of the crop not only in the country, but also in the continent.

Silverware could still come in the form of the Thai FA Cup on June 15, with Bangkok United heavy favourites heading into the final against second-tier Dragon Pathumwan Kanchanaburi.

But it is arguably on the continental stage where they will be most proud of their efforts this term.

Featuring in the AFC Champions League proper for the first time since 2007, the Bangkok Angels surpassed all expectations in their return to Asia's premier club competition by finishing top of a group that also included South Korean powerhouses Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, the Singapore Premier League's Lion City Sailors and Kitchee of Hong Kong.

In the round of 16, up against another continental heavyweight in Yokohama F. Marinos, Bangkok United would only fall 3-2 in extra-time as they more than matched the J1 League giants -- who would make it all the way to the final.

Them reaching the last 16 made it five times in the past seven ACL campaigns where a Thai club made it out of the group stage.

As Thailand slowly but surely emerge as a rising force in Asian football, Bangkok United also proved they have the ability to hold their own on the big stage as compatriots like Buriram, BGPU and Muangthong United have done in the past.

Still, the thing they crave for the most continues to elude them.

And rather than be disheartened or wonder if they are ever fated to go all the way, this season's failure to win the Thai League 1 should only spur them on.

Bangkok United will go again next season. And they will be hungrier than ever before.