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The , or , is the top professional association football league in Japanmarker. It is one of the most successful leagues in Asian club football and the only league given top class ranking by the AFC. Currently, J. League Division 1 and 2 are the first and second levels of the Japanese football league system.

The League history

Phases of the League

Year J1 Champions No. J1 titles
[from JSL Era]
1993 Verdy Kawasaki 1 [6]
1994 Verdy Kawasaki 2 [7]
1995 Yokohama Marinos 1 [3]
1996 Kashima Antlers 1 [1]
1997 Júbilo Iwata 1 [2]
1998 Kashima Antlers 2 [2]
1999 Júbilo Iwata 2 [3]
2000 Kashima Antlers 3 [3]
2001 Kashima Antlers 4 [4]
2002 Júbilo Iwata 3 [4]
2003 Yokohama F. Marinos 2 [4]
2004 Yokohama F. Marinos 3 [5]
2005 Gamba Osaka 1 [1]
2006 Urawa Red Diamonds 1 [5]
2007 Kashima Antlers 5 [5]
2008 Kashima Antlers 6 [6]

Before the professional league (-1992)

For history of Japanese club football before the inception of the professional league in 1993, see Japan Soccer League.
Before the inception of the J. League, the highest level of club football was the Japan Soccer League (JSL), and it consisted of amateur clubs. Fans were few, the grounds were not of the highest quality, and the Japanese national team was not on a par with the Asian powerhouses. To raise the level of play domestically, to attempt to garner more fans, and to strengthen the national team, the Japan Football Association (JFA) decided to form a professional league.

The professional football league, J. League was formed in 1992, with eight clubs drawn from the JSL First Division, one from the Second Division, and the newly formed Shimizu S-Pulse. At the same time, JSL changed its name and became the Japan Football League , a semi-professional league. Although the J. League did not officially launch until 1993, the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup competition was held between the ten clubs in 1992 to prepare for the inaugural season.

The inaugural season and the J. League boom (1993-1995)

J.League officially kicked-off its first season with ten clubs on May 15, 1993 as Verdy Kawasaki (current, Tokyo Verdy) played host to Yokohama Marinos (current, Yokohama F. Marinos) at the Kasumigaoka National Stadiummarker. It made a huge impact on the Japanese sports culture as professional baseball, golf, and sumo were the only well-supported and widely-watched sports in the country. Many famous and post-peak foreign players were brought into the clubs and the stadiums were filling in. On every match day, at least one game was broadcast live on national TV, and it seemed the league was a huge success. In the second season (1994), the league recorded its highest average attendance of 19,598, which is yet to be broken.

Because of such popularity, clubs in Japan Football League that failed to join "the original ten" in the inaugural season tried to join the league. Clubs like Jubilo Iwata and Bellmare Hiratsuka (current, Shonan Bellmare) joined the league in 1994, six more clubs followed in next four years.

An era after the boom (1996-1999)

Despite the success in the first three years, many experts anticipate that "the boom" would soon dissipate, and the league would be in terrible shape financially as the clubs continued paying high wages to the foreign players. In fact, the phenomenon began in early 1996 as the league attendance declined rapidly. In 1997 the average attendance was 10,131, compared to more than 19,000 in 1994. Many claimed that the sudden decline in popularity was also due to rapid expansions; A total of eight clubs were added in the four year span from 1994 to 1998. With high paychecks and low attendance, money was bleeding from the clubs, and the league sponsors were becoming very worried. It seemed that there was no way out from the losses.

Although J. League clubs were no longer corporate-owned, they still depended heavily on support from sponsors, who were thus de facto parent companies. When the Japanese economy took a turn for the worse, clubs suffered as their sponsors were affected. In 1998, Sato Kogyo, a general contractor and primary co-sponsor of Yokohama Flügels, announced that it was experiencing financial difficulties, and it would be pulling its support from the club. The other primary co-sponsor, All Nippon Airways, who could not support the club on its own, met with Nissan Motors, the primary sponsor of Yokohama Marinos, the Flügels' cross-town rival, and decided to merge their clubs. Under the agreement, the Flügels were dissolved, and the Marinos were renamed Yokohama F. Marinos, the "F." representing the Flügels. To many, this incident signified and symbolized as "the fall of the league" as many other clubs across the league were having similar financial difficulties. Another great example is Fujita canceling a major sponsorship deal with Bellmare Hiratsuka (currently, Shonan Bellmare), which ultimately lead to the relegation of the club in 2000. Without a change, it would be just a matter of time before the league collapsed.

Change of the infrastructure (1999-2004)

The league's management finally realized that they were heading in the wrong direction. In order to solve the problem, the management came out with two solutions.

First, they announced the J.League Hundred Year Vision, in which they aim to make 100 professional football clubs in the nation of Japan by 2092, the hundredth season. The league also encouraged the clubs to promote football or non-football related sports and health activities, to acquire local sponsorships, and to build good relationship with their hometowns at the grass-root level. The league believed that this will allow the clubs to bond with their respective cities and towns and get support from local government, companies, and citizens. In other words, clubs will be able to rely on the locals, rather than major national sponsors.

Second, the infrastructure of the league was heavily changed in 1999. The league acquired nine clubs from the semi-professional JFL and one club from J.League to create a two division system. The topflight became the J.League Division 1 (J1) with 16 clubs while J.League Division 2 (J2) was launched with ten clubs in 1999. The second-tier Japan Football League , now became third-tier Japan Football League.

The criteria for becoming a J2 club was not as strict as those for the top division. This allowed smaller cities and towns to maintain a club successfully without investing as much as would be necessary for clubs in J1. In fact, clubs like Mito HollyHock only draw an average of 3,000 fans a game and receive minimal sponsorship, yet still field fairly competitive teams in J2.

Clubs in J2 took time to build their teams for J1 promotion as they also tried to gradually improve their youth systems, their home stadium, their financial status, and their relationship with their hometown. Clubs such as Oita Trinita, Albirex Niigata, and Kawasaki Frontale accomplished this successfully. All these clubs originally started as J2 in 1999 and were comparatively small, but they eventually earned J1 promotion in 2002, 2003, and 2004 respectively. Now they are all well-established in the topflight.

The league also began to follow European game formats as time went on. Originally, due to the cultural unease of neither side coming out as the winner of a game, extra time, golden goal rules, and penalty shoot-outs were employed for regular league matches. Penalty shoot-outs were abolished in the beginning of the 1999 season, and extra time was abolished in 2002 for J2 and 2003 for J1.

Also, until 2004 (with the exception of 1996 season), the J1 season was divided into two. At the end of each full season, the champion from each half played a two-legged series to determine the overall season winner and runners-up. Jubilo Iwata in 2002, and Yokohama F. Marinos in 2003, won both "halves" of the respective seasons, thus eliminating the need for the playoff series. This was the part of the reason the league abolished the split-season system beginning in 2005.

AFC Champions League and expansion of J2 (2005-present)

Beginning in the 2005 season, J. League Division 1 consisted 18 clubs (from 16 in 2004) and the season format became similar to the European club football. The number of relegated clubs also increased from 2 to 2.5, with the third-from-bottom club going into promotion/relegation playoffs with the third-placed J2 club. Since then, other than minor adjustments, the top flight has stayed consistent.

Japanese football clubs have been participating in the AFC Champions League since the 1980s, but for the most part, the Japanese clubs took the Asian competition as an extra burden that took their attention away from the domestic competition. A good example is the 2005 season, where ACL participants Yokohama and Iwata went through 13 consecutive Asian and domestic matches in a span of 44 days, averaging 1 game per 3.66 days. The league declined to ease the fixture pressure from the clubs, whereas Chinese and Korean league moved their domestic games to help their clubs in continental competition. The issue of fixture congestion was finally addressed by the 2006 season.

However in the recent years, with inclusion of A-League in Eastern Asia, introduction of FIFA Club World Cup, and increased marketability in the Asian continent, both the league and the clubs paid more attention to Asian competition. For example, Kawasaki Frontale built up a notable fan base in Hong Kongmarker, owing to their participation in the Asian Champions League during the 2007 season. Continuous effort led to the success of Urawa Red Diamonds in 2007. Even in the 2008 season, Japanese clubs continue to dominate the competition. Thanks to excellent league management and competitiveness in Asian competition, the J. League received a total of 4 slots starting with the 2009 season. The league took this as an opportunity to sell TV broadcasting rights to foreign countries, especially in Asia. To acquire more Asian interest, the J. League also plans to add a 4th foreign player slot for each team, although these will be allocated to just players from the AFC countries.

Meanwhile, J. League Division 2 started to expand to fulfill the demands of lower-level clubs that were becoming professional. At the end of 2004 two clubs were promoted from the Japan Football League and in the following year Ehime F.C. followed. At the beginning of the 2006 season, the league took a survey to figure out the number of non-league clubs interested in joining the professional league. As it turned out, about 40-60 clubs in Japan plan to be professional in the next 30 years. From the league's perspective, the J.League Hundred Year Vision from the late 90s has been moving in a positive direction.

In light of this, the league management formed a committee and looked at two practical options for further expansion--either expand the second division or form a third division. In other words, the league had a choice between letting the non-league clubs catch up to the J2 standard or forming a third division with non-league clubs where these clubs can prepare for J2. After conducting several case studies, the committee made a professional assessment that it is the best interest of the league to expand the J2 to 22 clubs before forming a third division. Several reasons led the committee to such decision:
  • Japan Football League, the third-tier in Japanese football league system was already serving the purpose of preparing the non-league clubs.
  • At the time, most non-league club interested becoming professional were in the regional or prefectural leagues, two to four levels below J2.
  • Twenty-two clubs is the perfect number for a league as it allows enough number of home games for maximum annual revenue, while keeping the competition a fair double-round robin format.
  • Most European leagues have similar football pyramids where there is more clubs in 2nd- and 3rd-tier leagues than the top flight.

The committee also reintroduced Associate Membership System to identify and assist such non-league clubs planning to go professional in the future. The membership is exclusively given to non-league clubs that have intention to joining the J.League and also fulfill most of the criteria for J2 promotion. Several clubs in Japan Football League and Regional Leagues have applied and received the membership. Associate members finishing top 4 of JFL will be promoted to J2, although a few corporate and university holdouts may prevent a smooth transition (Japan, like Spain and Germany, allows reserve teams to compete in the main football league system, though not in the J. League itself). As of 2008, two clubs joined J2 through this system.

Future plans (2009-)

Currently the league has 18 clubs in Division 1 and Division 2. As mentioned in the last section, eventually the league plans to have 22 clubs. Now that the J2 has 18 clubs, J. League Promotion/Relegation Series will be eliminated and the 3rd place club will be allowed to move up to J1 automatically. Once J2 has 22 clubs, regular promotion and relegation between J2 and JFL will start. Then the league plan to stabilize the financial status and football competitiveness of JFL afterward.


Year Important Events Participating Clubs
  • JFA forms a professional league assessment committee.
  • The committee decides the criteria for professional clubs
  • Fifteen to twenty clubs from Japan Soccer League applies for the professional league membership
  • The professional league, J. League is formed with the following 10 clubs:
    • Gamba Osaka, JEF United Ichihara, Nagoya Grampus Eight, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Urawa Red Diamonds, Verdy Kawasaki, Yokohama Flügels, and Yokohama Marinos (pre-existing from the old JSL First Division)
    • Kashima Antlers (promoted from the old Second Division)
    • Shimizu S-Pulse (newly formed, non-company club).
  • Japan Soccer League becomes second-tier JFL
  • J. League hosts the first domestic league cup competition with the ten clubs
  • The J. League officially kicks off its first season
J. League: 10
1994 J. League: 12
  • Following clubs are promoted from Japan Football League : Cerezo Osaka and Kashiwa Reysol
  • The points system is introduced for the first time: a club receives 3pts for any win, 1pts for PK loss, and 0pts for regulation or extra time loss.
J. League: 14
  • Following clubs are promoted from Japan Football League : Kyoto Purple Sanga and Avispa Fukuoka
  • The league adopts single season format
  • J. League average attendance hits the record low 10,131
J. League: 16
  • Following club is promoted from Japan Football League : Vissel Kobe
  • The league goes back to split-season format
  • The points system changes: a club receives 3pts for regulation win, 2pts for extra-time win, 1pt for PK win, and 0pts for any loss.
J. League: 17
  • Following club is promoted from Japan Football League : Consadole Sapporo
  • Yokohama Flügels announces that they will dissolved into crosstown rivals Yokohama Marinos starting 1999 season
  • The league announces the J. League Hundred Year Vision
  • The league announces incorporation of two-division system starting 1999 season
  • The league hosts J. League Promotion Tournament to decide promoting and/or relegating clubs. As a result, Consadole Sapporo becomes the first club be to relegated.
J. League: 18
  • Yokohama Marinos merges with Yokohama Flügels and becomes Yokohama F. Marinos
  • The league adopts two divisions as following nine clubs from Japan Football League joins the league along with the relegated Consadole Sapporo: Montedio Yamagata, Vegalta Sendai, Omiya Ardija, Kawasaki Frontale, Ventforet Kofu, Sagan Tosu, F.C. Tokyo, Albirex Niigata, and Oita Trinita
  • Penalties are abolished in both divisions; however, golden goal extra-time rules stayed
  • The points system changes: a club receives 3pts for a regulation win, 2pts for an extra time win, and 1pt for a tie
  • Japan Football League is also restructured as well, as it becomes the 3rd-tier Japan Football League.
Note: To distinguish between the former and the current JFL, the new JFL is pronounced Nihon Football League in Japanese.
J1: 16
J2: 10
  • Bellmare Hiratsuka becomes Shonan Bellmare
  • Following club is promoted from Japan Football League: Mito HollyHock
J1: 16
J2: 11
  • Verdy Kawasaki becomes Tokyo Verdy 1969
  • Following club is promoted from Japan Football League: Yokohama F.C.
J1: 16
J2: 12
  • Extra time is abolished in Division 2 and traditional 3-1-0 points system is adopted
Note: Division 1 keeps extra time rule with 3-2-1-0 points system (see 1999 for detail)
ACL 02/03: 2
J1: 16
J2: 12

  • Extra time is abolished in Division 1 and traditional 3-1-0 points system is adopted
ACL: not held
J1: 16
J2: 12

  • JEF United Ichihara becomes JEF United Chiba
  • Inception of the two-legged Promotion/Relegation Series as the top flight expands to 18 clubs in the following season
ACL: 2
J1: 16
J2: 12

  • J. League Division 1 expands to 18 clubs
  • J. League Division 1 adopts singles-season format
  • Following clubs are promoted from Japan Football League: Tokushima Vortis and Thespa Kusatsu
ACL: 2
J1: 18
J2: 12

2006 ACL: 2
J1: 18
J2: 13

  • Kyoto Purple Sanga becomes Kyoto Sanga F.C.
  • J. League champions qualifies to Club World Cup as the host
Note: If a Japanese club wins the AFC Champions League, the host loses its right.
ACL: 2
J1: 18
J2: 13

  • Nagoya Grampus Eight becomes Nagoya Grampus
  • Tokyo Verdy 1969 becomes Tokyo Verdy
  • Following clubs are promoted from Japan Football League: Roasso Kumamoto and F.C. Gifu
ACL: 2 + 1
J1: 18
J2: 15

  • Four clubs enter AFC Champion League.
  • Implementation of 4th foreign player slot, a.k.a AFC player slot
  • Following clubs are promoted from Japan Football League: Tochigi S.C., Kataller Toyama and Fagiano Okayama
  • Promotion/Relegation Series is eliminated to accommodate the 18-club J2; 3rd place-club now receives automatic promotion to J1.
ACL: 4
J1: 18
J2: 18

2010 ACL: 4
J1: 18
J2: 19

The League structure

Since the inception of the second division in 1999, promotion and relegation follow a pattern similar to European leagues, where the two bottom clubs of J1 and the top two clubs of J2 are guaranteed to move. From 2004 to 2008 season, the third-placed J2 club entered Promotion/Relegation Series against the sixteenth-placed J1 club and the winner had right to play in the top flight in the following year. Starting 2009 season, top three J2 clubs receives J1 promotion by default in place of three bottom J1 clubs. However, promotion or right to play the now-defunct pro/rele series relies on the J2 clubs meeting the requirements for J1 franchise status set by the league. This has generally not been a hindrance, in fact, no club is yet to be denied promotion due to not meeting the J1 criteria.

Japan Football League (JFL) is currently the third level in the football system and being a semi-professional league, the J. League allows only certain clubs from JFL to be promoted. In 2000, 2001, and 2006 the JFL league champion was promoted to J2; in 2005 two teams were promoted. From 2007, the league requires J. League Associate Membership and at least 4th-place finish in JFL to be promoted to J2. Currently, there is no relegation from J2 to JFL. Since 1999, a total of ten clubs from JFL were promoted J2, two of which were expanded into J1. Currently, J1 has 18 clubs and J2 has 18 clubs. The division two will keep expanding until the second division have 22 clubs and afterward there will be regular promotion and relegation.

J.League Division 1 (J1)

Until 2004 season, the J1 season was divided into two halves, with an annual championship series involving the champions from each halves (with exception of the 1996 season). However, from 2005 season, the single-season format is adopted as the top flight was expanded to eighteen clubs. Currently, 18 clubs competes in double round robin, home and away. Starting 2008 season, the top three clubs, along with the Emperor's Cup winner receive ACL berths for the following season. If the Emperor's Cup winner happens to be one of the top three J1 finisher, the 4th-place club receives the final berth. Starting 2009 season, three bottom club are relegated to Division 2 at the end of the year.

The 2009 season

Eighteen clubs will play in double round-robin (home and away) format, a total of 34 games each. A club receives 3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie, and 0 points for a loss. The clubs are ranked by points, and tie breakers are, in the following order:
  • Goal differential
  • Goals scored
  • Head-to-head results
  • Disciplinary points
A draw would be conducted, if necessary. However, if two clubs are tied at the first place, both clubs will be declared as the champions. The bottom three clubs will be relegated to J2.

Clubs in J1 (2009)

Club Name Year Joined Home Town(s) Home Stadium(s) Capacity Current Spell in
The Top Flight
1993 Chiba & Ichiharamarker, Chibamarker Fukuda Denshi Arenamarker 18,500 1965-
1993 Yokohama & Yokosuka, Kanagawamarker Nissan Stadiummarker 72,370 1982-
1993 Suita, Osakamarker Osaka Expo '70 Stadiummarker 23,000 1988/89-
1993 Nagoya, Aichimarker Mizuho Athletic Stadiummarker

Toyota Stadiummarker

1993 Southwestern cities/towns of Ibarakimarker Kashima Stadiummarker 39,026 1993-
1993 Shimizumarker, Shizuokamarker Nihondaira Sports Stadiummarker

Shizuoka Stadium Ecopamarker

1994 Iwata, Shizuokamarker Yamaha Stadiummarker

Shizuoka Stadium Ecopamarker

1999 (J2) All cities/towns in Tokyomarker Ajinomoto Stadiummarker 50,000 2000-
1993 Saitama, Saitamamarker Saitama Stadiummarker

Urawa Komaba Stadiummarker

1999 (J2) All cities/towns in Oitamarker Ōita Stadiummarker 40,000 2003-
1999 (J2) Niigata & Seiromarker, Niigatamarker Tohoku Denryoku Big Swan Stadiummarker 42,300 2004-
1999 (J2) Kawasaki, Kanagawamarker Todoroki Athletics Stadiummarker 25,000 2005-
1999 (J2) Saitama, Saitamamarker Ōmiya Park Soccer Stadiummarker 12,500 2005-
1995 Kashiwa, Chibamarker Hitachi Kashiwa Soccer Stadiummarker 15,900 2007-
1997 Kobe, Hyōgomarker Home's Stadium Kobemarker

Kobe Universiade Memorial Stadiummarker

1996 Kyoto, Kyotomarker Nishikyogoku Athletic Stadiummarker 20,242 2008-
1993 Hiroshima, Hiroshimamarker Hiroshima Big Archmarker 50,000 2009-
1999 (J2) All cities/towns in Yamagatamarker Yamagata Park Stadiummarker 20,315 2009-

Championship history

Split-Season Era (1993-2004)
Year 1st Stage 2nd Stage
1993 Kashima Antlers Verdy Kawasaki
1994 Sanfrecce Hiroshima Verdy Kawasaki
1995 Yokohama Marinos Verdy Kawasaki
1996 Kashima Antlers
1997 Kashima Antlers Júbilo Iwata
1998 Júbilo Iwata Kashima Antlers
1999 Júbilo Iwata Shimizu S-Pulse
2000 Yokohama F. Marinos Kashima Antlers
2001 Júbilo Iwata Kashima Antlers
2002 Júbilo Iwata
2003 Yokohama F. Marinos
2004 Yokohama F. Marinos Urawa Red Diamonds
* Bold designates champions; † Single season; ‡ Single club won both stages

Single Season Era (2005-present)
Year Champion Runners-Up 3rd Place
2005 Gamba Osaka Urawa Red Diamonds Kashima Antlers
2006 Urawa Red Diamonds Kawasaki Frontale Gamba Osaka
2007 Kashima Antlers Urawa Red Diamonds Gamba Osaka
2008 Kashima Antlers Kawasaki Frontale Nagoya Grampus
2009 Gamba Osaka

Most successful clubs

# Club Champions Runners-Up
1 6 2
2 3 3
3 3 2
4 2 1
5 1 3
6 1 0
7 0 2
8 0 1
8 0 1
8 0 1

Relegation history

The 1998 Season
When the league introduced the two-division system in 1999, they also reduced number of Division 1 club from 18 to 16. At the end of 1998 season, they hosted the J.League Promotion Tournament to determine two relegating clubs from J.League. Originally, tournament was supposed to have six participants; Kawasaki Frontale from Japan Football League and five bottom clubs from very-complex combined ranking of 1997 and 1998 J.League seasons. However, Yokohama Flügels merged with Yokohama Marinos reducing the number J.League club to 17. Thus, the league took bottom four clubs from J.League and Kawasaki Frontale and decided that three survivor will join J.League Division 1 and two non-survivor will relegate/join the Division 2. As a results, Kawasaki Frontale failed to win J1 promotion and Consadole Sapporo became the first club in J.League history to relegate to J2. These two clubs and other eight clubs from JFL were brought up to create the division 2.

Split-Season Era (1999-2004)
During the 1999 to 2003 seasons, two bottom clubs clubs were relegated to Division 2. To accommodate for split-season format, combined overall standings were used to determine the relegating clubs. This created a confusing situation, where for championship race stage standing were used, while overall standing was used for relegation survival.

At end of the 2004 season, Division 1 again expanded from 16 clubs to 18 clubs. No clubs were relegated; however, last-placed (16th) club had to play Promotion/Relegation Series against 3rd placed club from J2. Again, to determined 16th placed club, overall standing was used instead of stage standing.

Single Season Era (2005-present)
From 2005 to 2008 seasons, number of relegating club increased 2.5. To accommodate for two incoming Division 2 clubs, two bottom clubs were relegated; the only difference is that now 18 clubs is competing instead of 16 clubs. Also, during this 4 seasons the 16th-placed club had to play and win Promotion/Relegation Series against 3rd-placed club from J2 to ensure their spot in J1 next year.

Starting in 2009, three teams will be relegated from J1 and three promoted from J2 by default.

Year 15th Place 16th Place 17th Place 18th Place
1998 JEF United Ichihara Consadole Sapporo Vissel Kobe Avispa Fukuoka
1999 Urawa Red Diamonds Bellmare Hiratsuka
2000 Kyoto Purple Sanga Kawasaki Frontale
2001 Avispa Fukuoka Cerezo Osaka
2002 Sanfrecce Hiroshima Consadole Sapporo
2003 Vegalta Sendai Kyoto Purple Sanga
2004 Cerezo Osaka Kashiwa Reysol
2005 Shimizu S-Pulse Kashiwa Reysol Tokyo Verdy 1969 Vissel Kobe
2006 Ventforet Kofu Avispa Fukuoka Cerezo Osaka Kyoto Purple Sanga
2007 Omiya Ardija Sanfrecce Hiroshima Ventforet Kofu Yokohama F.C.
2008 JEF Chiba Júbilo Iwata Tokyo Verdy Consadole Sapporo
2009 Kashiwa Reysol

* Bold designates relegated clubs; † Won the Pro/Rele Series; ‡ Lost the Pro/Rele Series and relegated

J. League Division 2 (J2)

Since the inception in 1999, format of J2 has been very consistent. The clubs played a quadruple round-robin (two home and away) format during 1999 to 2007 seasons. Until 2001, the clubs played extra time if they were tied after regulation and the clubs received 3pts for a regulation win, 2pts for an extra time win, 1pt for a tie, and 0pts for loss (there were no penalties). However, since 2002, the league abolished extra time and set the points system to the normal 3-1-0 system.

Due to increase in number of clubs (15 clubs in 2008 and 18 clubs in 2009), the league is currently conducted by a triple round-robin format. As the number of clubs in J2 grows larger, the league format is expected to change to double round-robin format for 19 to 22 clubs.

The 2009 season

Eighteen clubs will play in triple round-robin format, a total of 51 games each. A club receives 3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie, and 0 points for a loss. The clubs are ranked by points, and tie breakers are, in the following order:
  • Goal differential
  • Goals scored
  • Head-to-head results
  • Disciplinary points
A draw would be conducted, if necessary. However, if two clubs are tied at the first place, both clubs will be declared as the champions. The top three clubs will be promoted to J1.

Clubs in J2 (2009)

Club Name Year Joined Home Town(s) Home Stadium(s) Capacity Last Spell in
The Top Flight
1998 Sapporo, Hokkaidōmarker Sapporo Atsubetsu Park Stadiummarker

Sapporo Domemarker

1993 All cities/towns in Tokyomarker Ajinomoto Stadiummarker 50,000 2008
1999 (J2) All cities/towns in Yamanashimarker Kose Sports Stadiummarker 17,000 2006-2007
2001 (J2) Yokohama, Kanagawamarker Mitsuzawa Stadiummarker 15,064 2007
1996 Fukuoka, Fukuokamarker Level Five stadiummarker 22,563 2006
1995 Osaka, Osakamarker Nagai Stadiummarker 50,000 2003-2006
1999 (J2) Sendai, Miyagimarker Sendai Stadiummarker 19,694 2002-2003
1994 Central cities/towns in Kanagawamarker Hiratsuka Athletics Stadiummarker 18,500 1994-1999
1999 (J2) Tosu, Sagamarker Tosu Stadiummarker 25,000
2000 (J2) Mito, Ibarakimarker K's denki Stadium Mito 15,000
2005 (J2) All cities/towns in Tokushimamarker Naruto Athletic Stadiummarker 20,000
2005 (J2) All cities/towns in Gunmamarker Shikishima Stadiummarker 10,050
2006 (J2) All cities/towns in Ehimemarker Ehime Prefectural General Athletics Park 20,000
2008 (J2) Kumamoto, Kumamotomarker KKWing Stadiummarker

Kumamoto Suizenzi Stadium

2008 (J2) All cities/towns in Gifumarker Nagaragawa Stadiummarker 31,000
2009 (J2) Utsunomiya, Tochigimarker Tochigi Green Stadiummarker 16,000
2009 (J2) All cities/towns in Toyamamarker Toyama Athletic Recreation Park Stadiummarker 28,494
2009 (J2) All cities/towns in Okayamamarker Momotaro Stadiummarker 20,000

Championship and promotion history

The top two clubs receive promotion. From the 2004 season, the 3rd placed club plays Promotion/Relegation Series against 16th-placed club in J1.

Year Champion Runner-Up 3rd Place 4th Place
1999 Kawasaki Frontale F.C. Tokyo Oita Trinita Albirex Nigata
2000 Consadole Sapporo Urawa Red Diamonds Oita Trinita Omiya Ardija
2001 Kyoto Purple Sanga Vegalta Sendai Montedio Yamagata Albirex Nigata
2002 Oita Trinita Cerezo Osaka Albirex Nigata Kawasaki Frontale
2003 Albirex Nigata Sanfrecce Hiroshima Kawasaki Frontale Avispa Fukuoka
2004 Kawasaki Frontale Omiya Ardija Avispa Fukuoka Montedio Yamagata
2005 Kyoto Purple Sanga Avispa Fukuoka Ventforet Kofu Vegalta Sendai
2006 Yokohama F.C. Kashiwa Reysol Vissel Kobe Sagan Tosu
2007 Consadole Sapporo Tokyo Verdy 1969 Kyoto Sanga F.C. Vegalta Sendai
2008 Sanfrecce Hiroshima Montedio Yamagata Vegalta Sendai Cerezo Osaka

* Bold type designates the promoted club; † Lost the Promotion/Relegation Series; ‡ Won the Promotion/Relegation Series and promoted

J.League Associate Membership

J. League Associate Membership is a status given to the non-league football clubs in Japan that has intention to join J. League, in the near future. Clubs from the Japan Football League, Regional Divisions, and Prefectual Divisions, may apply for the membership. The applications are reviewed and inspected by a committee formed by the league. The Associate Membership is now required for J2 promotion and the system allows the J.League to identify the clubs that are intending to join the league and provide necessary resources.

Current Members

Other tournaments

Domestic Tournaments
International Tournaments
Defunct Tournament

J. League awards

Notable players and managers



See also


External links

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