J. League Division 2

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J. League Division 2
J.League.svg
Country  Japan
Confederation AFC
Founded 1999; 15 years ago (1999)
Number of teams 22
Levels on pyramid 2
Promotion to J. League Division 1
Relegation to Japan Football League (2012–2013)
J3 League (2014– )
Domestic cup(s) Emperor's Cup
Current champions Ventforet Kofu
(2012)
Most championships Consadole Sapporo
Kawasaki Frontale
Kyoto Sanga
(2 titles each)
TV partners SKY PerfecTV!
Website Official Website
2014 J. League Division 2

The J. League Division 2 (Jリーグ・ディビジョン2 J Rīgu Dibijon 2?) or J2 League (J2リーグ J2 Rīgu?) is the second division of Japan Professional Football League (日本プロサッカーリーグ Nippon Puro Sakkā Rīgu?) and is the second-tier professional association football league in Japan. Currently, J. League Division 2 is the second level of the Japanese association football league system. The first tier is represented by J. League Division 1.

Second-tier club football has existed in Japan since 1972; however, it was only professionalized during the 1999 season with ten clubs. The league took one relegating club from the top division and nine clubs from the second-tier semi-professional former Japan Football League to create the J2 League. The remaining seven clubs in the Japan Football League, the newly formed Yokohama F.C., and one promoting club from the Regional Leagues, formed the nine-club Japan Football League, the third-tier of Japanese football.

History[edit]

For history of Japanese club football before the inception of the professional league in 1993, see Japan Soccer League.
For detailed history of J. League Division 1, see J. League Division 1#History.

Phases of the Japanese second-tier association football[edit]

Amateur era (—1999)[edit]

A national second tier of Japanese association football was first established in 1972, when the Japan Soccer League formed a Second Division. Among the founding 10 clubs, 5 later competed in the J. League: Toyota Motors (inaugural champion), Yomiuri, Fujitsu, Kyoto Shiko Club and Kofu Club. The new division consisted of 10 clubs, like the First Division, and initialy required both the champion and runner-up teams to play-off a Promotion/Relegation series of test matches against the top flight's bottom clubs. The requirement was abolished for the champions in 1980, and for the runners-up in 1984.

Prior to 1977, the way for clubs to gain access to the Second Division was by making the finals of the All Japan Senior Football Championship and then playing off in their own Promotion/Relegation series against the second tier's bottom clubs. After 1977, the new All Japan Regional Football Promotion League Series served as provider of aspiring League clubs. In 1985, the Second Division increased to 12 clubs and in 1986, the number reached 16. Until 1989, the table was divided into East and West groups, depending on geographical location; after that year and until 1992 the table was unified.

In 1992, following the formation of the J. League, the JSL Second Division was renamed the (former) Japan Football League. The league was divided into two hierarchical, non-equal divisions of 10 clubs each. In 1994, the JFL was again reunified into a single division. As the J. League expanded in numbers, the need for another second tier with promotion and relegation arose, as the number of clubs which wanted to become professional increased (particularly in the case of Shonan Bellmare, Kashiwa Reysol, Cerezo Osaka and Júbilo Iwata, who had been JSL First Division champions but had not been chosen for the inaugural J. League season).

Professionalization era (1999–2004)[edit]

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, both being the professional leagues. The top flight 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 (former) Japan Football League, now became third-tier Japan Football League.

The criteria for becoming a J2 club were 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 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, Kawasaki Frontale, and Ventforet Kofu 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, 2004, and 2005 respectively. Even though Kofu and Oita were later relegated back to Division 2, they are well-established association football clubs, managing to average 10,000 fans per game.

The league also began to follow European game formats, as time went on. In the first three seasons (1999–2001), games were played with extra time for regular league matches if there were not winner at end of the regulation. The extra time was abolished in 2002, and the league adopted the standard 3-1-0 points system.

Early expansion era (2004–2009)[edit]

Two third-tier Japan Football League clubs, Mito HollyHock and Yokohama FC joined the J2 League in the 2000 and 2001 seasons. Mito initially tried in the 1999 season, but failed, having better luck the following year. On the other hand, Yokohama F.C. was formed by the fans of Yokohama Flügels, who went defunct after the merger with Yokohama Marinos on Jan 1st, 1999. In essence, these two clubs could and should have joined the league in the inaugural year with the original ten clubs, and it was inevitable that they were eventually accepted by the league.

However, besides these two clubs, it seemed that there was no interest from the lower-level clubs; the second division did not see any further expansion for few seasons. In 2004, however, two clubs showed interested as Thespa Kusatsu and Tokushima Vortis were accepted to the league. Two years later, in the 2006 season, Ehime FC followed their footsteps. It turned out that many clubs were aiming for membership at the professional level. However, in the early 2000s, these clubs were still in the regional leagues, and it took them three to four years to even eye professionalism.

Clearly, the concept of second-tier professional association football – the fact that clubs can compete at the professional level with low budgets, was something that attracted many amateur clubs across the nation of Japan. At the beginning of the 2006 season, the league took a survey to determine the number of non-league clubs interested in joining the professional league. The results showed that about 40 to 60 clubs in Japan have plans to professionalize over 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, 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 achieve 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 was in the best interest of the league to expand the J2 to 22 clubs rather than form a third division. Several reasons led the committee to this 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 clubs interested in professionalism were still in the regional or prefectural leagues, two to four levels below J2.
  • Twenty-two clubs is the perfect number for the J2 league, as it allows enough home games for annual revenue, while keeping the competition a fair double-round-robin format.
  • Most European leagues have similar association football pyramids, where there are more clubs in 2nd and 3rd-tier leagues than in the top flight.

The committee also reintroduced Associate Membership System in the 2006 season. This allowed the committee to identify interested non-league clubs and provide necessary resources to them. The membership was exclusively given to non-league clubs that had intentions of joining the J. League, while meeting most of the criteria for J2 promotion. Several clubs in the Japan Football League and Regional Leagues have applied for and received membership. Associate members finishing in the top 4 of the JFL were promoted to J2. Following the promotion of Ehime F.C., six more clubs joined J2 League through this system.

As the number of clubs increased, the league format changed from a quadruple round-robin to a triple round-robin format. This was adopted during the 2008 season with 15 clubs and the 2009 season with 18 clubs. In 2009, the J2 league also saw an increase in promotion slots to three, to accommodate the eighteen-club league. As a result, the Promotion/Relegation Series, which allowed the third-placed J2 clubs to fight for J1 slots for the following season, was abolished, after its introduction in the 2004 season.

Introduction of Double round-robin (2010–2011)[edit]

When the league reached 19 clubs in the 2010 season, the J2 League adopted the double round-robin format. The league continued to expand to 22 clubs, and until then there was no relegation to Japan Football League. In the next few seasons, the maximum number of clubs that could be promoted to J2 was decided by taking the difference of twenty-two minus the number of clubs in J2.

End of Expansion and J2 Playoffs (2012-present)[edit]

When the league reached 22 clubs, two new regulations were introduced. Only the top two clubs earn automatic promotion, while clubs from 3rd to 6th entered playoffs for the final and third promotion slot, as in the Football League Championship, Serie B, or Segunda División. [1] However, the rules will be heavily slanted to favor those with higher league placement:

  • The team 3rd in the standings will face the 6th placed team, and the 4th placed team will face the 5th, as in the European leagues; however, unlike these leagues, the round will be only one match, at the home side of the higher placed team.
  • The winners of the two matches meet at the home side of the higher placed team, or potentially at a neutral venue (likely Tokyo National Stadium). The winner of this match is promoted to J1.
  • In all matches, in case of a draw after regulation time, the team that ended the season with the higher placement in the league table will be considered the winner, so there will be no extra time and/or penalty shootout.
  • If teams ineligible for promotion finished above 6th, they will not be allowed to participate in the playoffs. Instead, the highest ranked team(s) will receive byes.

Also starting this year, at most two clubs can be relegated to lower tier (for 2012 season only, Japan Football League, depending on how that league finished.

Plans (2013—)[edit]

Starting in 2013, a club licensing system was implemented. Clubs failing to fulfill this licensing requirement can be relegated to the third-tier (JFL/Division 3), regardless of placement.

The third-tier league, J. League Division 3, will be established in 2014, targeting teams having ambitions to reach the J.League. The JFL will become the highest tier amateur league for teams that cannot participate in the J.League.

Timetable[edit]

Year Important Events # J2
Clubs
Prom.
Slots
1999
Note: To distinguish between the former and the current JFL, the new JFL is pronounced Nihon Football League in Japanese.
10 2
2000 11 2
2001 12 2
2002
  • Extra time is abolished in Division 2 and traditional 3-1-0 points system is adopted
12 2
2003 12 2
2004 12 2.5
2005
  • J. League Division 1 expands to 18 clubs (No relegated clubs from the 2004 J1 season)
  • Tokushima Vortis and Thespa Kusatsu are promoted from Japan Football League
12 2.5
2006 13 2.5
2007 13 2.5
2008
  • Two clubs are promoted from Japan Football League: Roasso Kumamoto and F.C. Gifu
  • Division 2 adopts the triple-round-robin format from quadruple-round-robin
15 2.5
2009 18 3
2010
  • One club is promoted from Japan Football League: Giravanz Kitakyushu
  • Division 2 adopts the double-round-robin format from triple-round-robin
19 3
2011 20 3
2012
  • Matsumoto Yamaga and Machida Zelvia are promoted from Japan Football League [2]
  • The play-off system for the third promotion spot is introduced
  • Conditional relegation to Japan Football League is introduced. Machida Zelvia became the first club to be relegated from Division 2.
22 3
2013 22 3

Stance in the Japanese football pyramid[edit]

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 a Promotion/Relegation Series against the sixteenth-placed J1 club, with the winner playing in the top flight in the following year. Starting after the 2009 season, top three J2 clubs received J1 promotion by default, replacing three relegated bottom J1 clubs. However, promotion or the right to play the now-defunct pro/rele series relied on the J2 clubs meeting the requirements for J1 franchise status set by the league. This was not a hindrance, in fact, as no club has been denied promotion due to not meeting the J1 criteria.

Japan Football League (JFL) is currently the third level in the association football system. 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 twelve clubs from JFL were promoted J2, two of which were expanded into J1. Currently, J1 has 18 clubs and J2 has 20 clubs. Division two will keep expanding until it has 22 clubs; afterwards there will be regular promotion and relegation.

Since its inception in 1999, the format of J2 has been consistent. Clubs played a quadruple round-robin (two home and away) format during the 1999 to 2007 seasons. To accommodate the on-going expansion process, a triple round-robin format was implemented during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Until the 2001 season, 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, starting in 2002, the league abolished extra time and set the points system to the standard 3-1-0 system.

The number of clubs reached 19 in 2010; and the league format was changed to double round-robin.

2014 season[edit]

League Formats (2014)[edit]

Twenty-two clubs will play in double round-robin format, a total of 42 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 difference
  • 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. Two top clubs will be directly promoted to J1, and third promotion spot will be decided in the playoff series amongst clubs placed 4−6th.

The relegation to lower tier (originally Japan Football League, later changed to J. League division 3) will depend on the number and final standings of promotion-eligible clubs. Up to two clubs can be exchanged between two leagues, with direct promotion/relegation between 22nd J2 place and JFL chamption (if eligible) and/or playoff series between JFL runner-up and last non-relegated J2 team.

Prize Money
  • First Place: 20,000,000 Yen
  • Second Place: 10,000,000 Yen
  • Third Place: 5,000,000 Yen

Participating Clubs (2013)[edit]

Club Name Year Joined Home Town(s) Last Spell in
the Top Flight
Avispa Fukuoka 1996 (J) Fukuoka, Fukuoka 2011
Ehime FC 2006 All cities/towns in Ehime
Fagiano Okayama 2009 All cities/towns in Okayama
FC Gifu 2008 All cities/towns in Gifu
Gainare Tottori 2011 All cities/towns in Tottori
Giravanz Kitakyushu 2010 Kitakyushu, Fukuoka
JEF United Chiba 1993 (J) Chiba & Ichihara, Chiba 1965–2009
Kataller Toyama 2009 All cities/towns in Toyama
Kyoto Sanga 1996 (J) Southwestern cities/towns in Kyoto 2008–2010
Mito HollyHock 2000 Mito, Ibaraki
Montedio Yamagata 1999 All cities/towns in Yamagata 2009–2011
Gamba Osaka 1993 (J) Suita, Ōsaka 1988/89–2012
Roasso Kumamoto 2008 Kumamoto, Kumamoto
Consadole Sapporo 1998 (J) Sapporo, Hokkaido 2012
Thespa Kusatsu 2005 All cities/towns in Gunma
Tochigi SC 2009 Utsunomiya, Tochigi
Vissel Kobe 1997 (J) Kōbe, Hyōgo 2007–2012
Tokyo Verdy 1993 (J) Tokyo 2008
Tokushima Vortis 2005 All cities/towns in Tokushima
Matsumoto Yamaga 2012 Matsumoto, Nagano
Yokohama FC 2001 Yokohama, Kanagawa 2007
V-Varen Nagasaki 2013 All cities/towns in Nagasaki
  • Gray background denotes club was most recently relegated/demoted from J1 League.
  • Pink background denotes club was most recently promoted from Japan Football League.
  • "Year joined" is the year the club joined the J. League (Division 2 unless otherwise indicated).
  • "Last spell in top flight" includes seasons in the old Japan Soccer League First Division.

Stadiums (2013)[edit]

Primary venues used in the J. League:

Avispa Fukuoka Consadole Sapporo Ehime F.C. Fagiano Okayama F.C. Gifu Gainare Tottori
Level-5 Stadium Sapporo Dome Ningineer Stadium Kanko Stadium Nagaragawa Stadium Tottori Bank Bird Stadium
Capacity: 22,563 Capacity: 41,484 Capacity: 11,609 Capacity: 20,000 Capacity: 20,000 Capacity: 16,033
Hakata no mori stadium-day.jpg Sapporodome201108172.JPG EhimePreParkStadium130811-3.JPG Momotaro Stadium 01.jpg Torigin Bird Stadium.jpg Nagaragawa Stadium 5.JPG


Gamba Osaka Giravanz Kitakyushu JEF United Chiba Kataller Toyama Kyoto Sanga F.C. Matsumoto Yamaga
Osaka Expo '70 Stadium Honjō Athletic Stadium Fukuda Denshi Arena Toyama Athletic Stadium Nishikyogoku Athletic Stadium Matsumotodaira Football Stadium
Capacity: 21,000 Capacity: 10,202 Capacity: 18,500 Capacity: 28,494 Capacity: 20,588 Capacity: 20,396
BanpakuEXPO'70Stadium.JPG Honjo Stadium 20110508.JPG Fukuda Denshi Arena (2008).jpg Toyamasogo1.jpg Nishikyogoku stadium20130428.JPG Kirin Cup 2007.jpg
Mito Hollyhock Montedio Yamagata Roasso Kumamoto Thespakusatsu Gunma Tochigi S.C. Tokyo Verdy
K's denki Stadium Mito ND Soft Stadium Yamagata Umakana Yokana Stadium Shoda Shoyu Stadium Gunma Tochigi Green Stadium Ajinomoto Stadium
Capacity: 12,000 Capacity: 21,292 Capacity: 32,000 Capacity: 10,120 Capacity: 15,589 Capacity: 49,970
Ksdenkistadium10050501.jpg NDsoftstadium20090628.JPG Kkwing20060513.JPG Syodashoyustadium2.JPG Tochigi Green 20110417.jpg Ajinomoto Stadium 20110625.JPG
Tokushima Vortis V-Varen Nagasaki Vissel Kobe Yokohama F.C.
Pocarisweat Stadium Nagasaki Athletic Stadium Noevir Stadium Kobe Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium
Capacity: 14,303 Capacity: 20,246 Capacity: 30,132 Capacity: 15,454
Naruto-athletic-stadium.jpg Nagasaki Athletic Stadium1.JPG Inside View of Kobe Wing Stadium.jpg Mitsuzawa100502.JPG

Former clubs[edit]

Club Year
Joined
Hometown(s) First Season in
the Top Flight
Current League
Albirex Niigata 1999 Niigata & Seiro, Niigata 2004 Division 1
Cerezo Osaka 1995 (J) Osaka, Osaka 1965 Division 1
FC Tokyo 1999 Tokyo 2000 Division 1
Gamba Osaka 1993 (J) Suita, Osaka 1986/87 Division 1
Kashiwa Reysol 1995 (J) Kashiwa, Chiba 1965 Division 1
Kawasaki Frontale 1999 Kawasaki, Kanagawa 1977 Division 1
Gainare Tottori 2011 All cities/towns in Tottori Division 3
Omiya Ardija 1999 Saitama, Saitama 2005 Division 1
Sagan Tosu 1999 Tosu, Saga 2012 Division 1
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1993 (J) Hiroshima, Hiroshima 1965 Division 1
Tokushima Vortis 2005 All cities/towns in Tokushima 2014 Division 1
Urawa Red Diamonds 1993 (J) Saitama, Saitama 1965 Division 1
Vegalta Sendai 1999 Sendai, Miyagi 2002 Division 1
Vissel Kobe 1997 (J) Kobe, Hyōgo 1997 Division 1
Ventforet Kofu 1999 All cities/towns in Yamanashi 2006 Division 1
Machida Zelvia 2012 Machida, Tokyo Division 3
  • Gray background denotes club was most recently relegated/demoted to J3 League.
  • Pink background denotes club was most recently promoted to J1 League.
  • "Year joined" is the year the club joined the J. League (Division 2 unless otherwise indicated).
  • "First spell in top flight" includes seasons in the old Japan Soccer League First Division.

Championship/Promotion History[edit]

The top two clubs receive promotion. From the 2004 season to the 2008 season, the 3rd placed club plays Promotion/Relegation Series against 16th-placed club in J1. From the 2009 season to the 2011 season, the 3rd placed club is promoted by default. Beginning at the 2012 season, the third promotion place is determined by a playoff between the 3rd to 6th actual places.

Year Champion Runner-Up 3rd Place Play-off winner
1999 Kawasaki Frontale FC Tokyo Oita Trinita
2000 Consadole Sapporo Urawa Red Diamonds Oita Trinita
2001 Kyoto Purple Sanga Vegalta Sendai Montedio Yamagata
2002 Oita Trinita Cerezo Osaka Albirex Niigata
2003 Albirex Niigata Sanfrecce Hiroshima Kawasaki Frontale
2004 Kawasaki Frontale Omiya Ardija Avispa Fukuoka
2005 Kyoto Purple Sanga Avispa Fukuoka Ventforet Kofu
2006 Yokohama FC Kashiwa Reysol Vissel Kobe
2007 Consadole Sapporo Tokyo Verdy 1969 Kyoto Sanga
2008 Sanfrecce Hiroshima Montedio Yamagata Vegalta Sendai
2009 Vegalta Sendai Cerezo Osaka Shonan Bellmare
2010 Kashiwa Reysol Ventforet Kofu Avispa Fukuoka
2011 FC Tokyo Sagan Tosu Consadole Sapporo
2012 Ventforet Kofu Shonan Bellmare Kyoto Sanga Oita Trinita (6th)
2013 Gamba Osaka Vissel Kobe Kyoto Sanga Tokushima Vortis (4th)

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

Most successful clubs
Club Winners Runners-up Winning seasons Runners-up seasons
Kawasaki Frontale
2
0
1999, 2004
Kyoto Sanga
2
0
2001, 2005
Consadole Sapporo
2
0
2000, 2007
Sanfrecce Hiroshima
1
1
2008 2003
Vegalta Sendai
1
1
2009 2001
Kashiwa Reysol
1
1
2010 2006
FC Tokyo
1
1
2011 1999
Ventforet Kofu
1
1
2012 2010
Oita Trinita
1
0
2002
Albirex Niigata
1
0
2003
Yokohama FC
1
0
2006
Gamba Osaka
1
0
2013
Cerezo Osaka
0
2
2002, 2009
Urawa Red Diamonds
0
1
2000
Omiya Ardija
0
1
2004
Avispa Fukuoka
0
1
2005
Tokyo Verdy
0
1
2007
Montedio Yamagata
0
1
2008
Sagan Tosu
0
1
2011
Shonan Bellmare
0
1
2012
Vissel Kobe
0
1
2013

Promotion Play-Off Results[edit]

Season First Semi-final (3rd vs 6th) Second Semi-final (4th vs 5th) Final
2012 Kyoto Sanga 0–4 Oita Trinita Yokohama FC 0–4 JEF United Chiba Oita Trinita 1–0 JEF United Chiba
2013 Kyoto Sanga 0–0 V-Varen Nagasaki Tokushima Vortis 1–1 JEF United Chiba Kyoto Sanga 0–2 Tokushima Vortis

Relegation history[edit]

Upon the formation of second division, the league had not implemented any relegation mechanism between J2 and third-tier Japan Football League, and the exchange between divisions worked one-way only. After years of gradual expansion the division has reached its planned capacity of 22 teams, therefore allowing J. League to start relegating bottom-placed teams to JFL. Machida Zelvia set the unhappy milestone, becoming the very first team to be relegated from J2 (and the only team relegated to JFL).

As the establishment of J. League Division 3, starting from 2013, the relegated team will go to division 3 instead of JFL.

Year 21st Place 22nd Place
2012 FC Gifu Machida Zelvia
2013 FC Gifu Gainare Tottori

* Bold designates relegated clubs;
Won the play-off against JFL team;
Lost the play-off series to JFL team and was relegated

Other tournaments[edit]

Domestic Tournaments
Defunct Tournament

Players and managers[edit]

Players[edit]

Managers[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]