Wait your turn JDT, right now this is Southeast Asia's No.1 team

Ambitious Johor Darul Ta'zim have made impressive strides in recent years. But they and every other club in Southeast Asia should be focusing on one club as the model to follow...

Muangthong United are moving to the next level right before our eyes.

The Kirins are not only the best team in Thailand, they are Southeast Asia's No.1 and have already shown in the Asian Champions League (ACL) that they can live – more than live, in fact – with opposition from Japan, South Korea and Australia.

Following Tuesday's 0-0 draw with Ulsan Hyundai in Korea, Muangthong are second behind J.League champions Kashima Antlers in their ACL group, with two of their three remaining games at home in Thailand.

It would be fitting if the country's champions can get to the ACL last 16 ... nobody would be surprised if Muangthong did just that

With Thailand reaching the last round of qualification for the 2018 World Cup, it would be fitting if the country's champions can get to the ACL last 16 and maybe further in the continent's biggest club competition.

Nobody would be surprised if Muangthong did just that and it is testament to all the work that has been done.

United are following in the steps of Guangzhou Evergrande. The Chinese team quickly realised in 2010 that while money can bring in top-class foreign talent, the champions are often the team that has the most talented local contingent.

You can't have sustained success unless your domestic players are up to scratch.

And Muangthong have that. Few clubs anywhere possess as many national team players.

Chanathip is playing a pivotal role ahead of his Japan move

Fans of Thai Premier League rivals must need a few minutes to realise that heroes such as Chanathip Songkrasin, Tristan Do, Sarach Yooyen, Kawin Thamstachanan, Teerasil Dangda and Theerathon Bunmathan are the enemy for 90 minutes.

Muangthong don't just have lots of Thai internationals, they have the best ones, the spine of the national team that is becoming respected around the continent.

If the Thai League can provide a path for foreign players to the Middle Kingdom, it should become easier to attract a better class of import

United then bring in foreigners to fill positions the War Elephants are relatively weak in such as the centre of defence.

Even so, it is striking when watching the team live at the old Thunderdome Stadium just north of Bangkok that it is one of the few places in Asia where the imports often look technically inferior to the locals.

What is also interesting is that while the departure of striker Cleiton Silva at the start of the season was a blow, as he guaranteed goals, the Brazilian went to China to sign for Shanghai Shenxin, a team looking to get back into the Chinese Super League.

If the Thai Premier League can provide a path for foreign players to the riches on offer in the Middle Kingdom, it should become easier to attract a better class of import to the country and especially its top teams.

And Muangthong are top of the table. What is worrying for rest is that while the Kirins have been busy collecting five points from three games in South Korea and Australia and at home to Kashima Antlers of Japan – a team that gave Real Madrid a run for their money in the final of the 2016 Club World Cup –- they have also been perfect at home.

Korea's Ulsan found very little space against MTU

To be able to challenge on two fronts is incredibly difficult and teams with a lot more experience than United in Asia have struggled to do so.

Not only are Muangthong in first position, not only have they won all six games, but they have also yet to concede a goal in the league.

Not only are Muangthong in first position, not only have they won all six games, but they have also yet to concede a goal in the league

A goal difference of plus-14 is impressive, as is the fact there is a different hero in almost every game. When the team needs someone to step up, any number of suitors usually does.

Against Ulsan in Korea on Tuesday, it was goalkeeper Kawin, pulling off a string of saves to earn a point for his team and a tribute from Ulsan coach Kim Do-hoon, one of the best strikers in K-League history. It was the number one's eighth clean sheet in nine competitive games in 2017.

Former Newcastle United striker Xisco Jimenez endured something of a nightmare time in the English Premier League, but is finding the Thai version much more to his liking.

Adisak Kraisorn does not get the headlines that some of his teammates do, but the forward has been contributing, while there can't be a better pair of fullbacks anywhere on the continent than Do and Theerathon.

And of course, there is also Chanathip. The playmaker has been top-class in Asia and at home. He will leave for Japan mid-season but by then, Muangthong could be in the knockout stages of the ACL and out of sight at the top of the table.

Ulsan coach Kim Do-hoon was full of praise for the Thai side

The title race is in danger of becoming a question of not if any other team can stop Muangthong, but if any of them can even keep pace.

Chiangrai United have started well after investing heavily after last season, while Bangkok United have struggled so far after pushing the champs all the way in 2016.

Buriram United, Muangthong's old nemesis, seem to be challenging after a disappointing 2016 and with Brazilian striker Diogo fit again, the northeasterners should provide the toughest test so far this weekend. 

At the moment, however, Muangthong have the consistency that others will have to match, but are unlikely to be able to do so.

United are flying the flag for Thailand, and Southeast Asia, all around the continent, while raising the bar at home.

It is multi-tasking at its finest.