Japan Football League

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Japan Football League
Jfl logo.png
Country Japan Japan
Confederation AFC
Founded 1999; 15 years ago (1999)
Number of teams 14
Levels on pyramid 3 (1999–2013)
4 (2014– )
Promotion to J. League Division 2 (1999–2013)
J3 League (2014– )
Relegation to Japanese Regional Leagues
Domestic cup(s) Emperor's Cup
Current champions Nagano Parceiro
Most championships Honda FC
(4 titles)
Website http://www.jfl.or.jp/
2014 Japan Football League
For the league before 1998 (Japan futtobōru Līgu (ジャパンフットボールリーグ?), referred to in this page as "the former JFL"), see Japan Football League (1992–1998).

The Japan Football League, (日本フットボールリーグ Nihon futtobōru Līgu?) also known as simply the JFL is the 4th tier of the Japanese association football league system, positioned beneath three divisions of J. League, and the top tier of amateur football in the country. Despite its officially amateur status the league features fully professional teams that hold J. League associate membership among its ranks.


The Japan Football League started from the 1999 season when the second division of J. League (J2) was also born. Until then, J. League consisted of only one division and the former JFL was the second highest division. Out of 16 teams who played the last season of the former JFL, 9 decided and were accepted to play in J2 and the other 7 teams as well as Yokogawa Electric, the winners of the Regional Promotion Series, formed the new Japan Football League. These 8 teams together with Yokohama FC that was allowed to participate as a special case after the merger of Yokohama Flügels and Yokohama Marinos competed in the inaugural 1999 season.

The 9 teams that competed in the first season were as follows: Denso SC, Honda Motor, Jatco FC, Kokushikan University F.C., Mito HollyHock, Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, Sony Sendai, Yokohama FC and Yokogawa Electric.

In the second season the number of clubs was increased from 9 to 12, reaching 16 in 2001. In 2002 it was briefly 18 clubs before going back to 16 the next season and settling for good at 18 in 2006. For the 2012 season it will only have 17 clubs due to the late withdrawal of Arte Takasaki.

The league suffered another contraction after 2013 season, as 10 of its 18 teams have joined the newly created J3 League. It also moved the league a tier down the pyramid, making it fourth-tier league starting 2014.

Yokohama FC and Tokushima Vortis are the only former JFL members to have competed in the top flight, which they did in the 2007 and 2014 respectively.


JFL clubs may be affiliated to companies, or be entirely autonomous clubs or reserve teams of these. Until 2010, university clubs (which as a rule do not play in the Japanese football league system) were recommended by the Japan University Football Association and played off against bottom JFL teams for entrance. B-teams are allowed to participate but only A-squads of truly autonomous clubs are eligible for J. League Associate Membership, and with it, promotion to the J. League.

Promotion from JFL[edit]

In 2012 and 2013 season. A club that satisfies the following criteria will be promoted to J. League Div. 2.

  • Have J. League Associate Membership
  • Finish the season in the top two in JFL
    • If only the champion is an Associate Member, it will be automatically promoted.
    • If both the champion and runner-up are Associate Members, the champion will be automatically promoted and the runner-up will play a Promotion/Relegation Series against the second-to-last club in J2.
    • If only the runner-up is an Associate Member, it will play the Promotion/Relegation Series against the last club in J2.
  • Pass the final inspection by J. League Committee

As the establishment of J. league division 3 in 2014 season. The Top 2 requirement is no longer necessary should a team is approved by J. League Committee and is a J. League Associate Member. However, they'll start at J3 instead. The JFL will be the highest tier of amateur level football league in Japan again, through, they still serve the purpose of helping potential J.League participants to participate the J3.

Relegation from JFL[edit]

Up to two teams at the bottom of the league may face a direct relegation or relegation/promotion play-off against the teams finishing at the top of the All Japan Regional Football Promotion League Series. The number of the teams who need to compete in the play-off varies depending on the number of the teams that are promoted to J3 or withdrawn from the JFL.

Emperor's Cup eligibility[edit]

Until 2008, only the club at the top of the standings at half-season (17 matches completed) was qualified for the Emperor's Cup, entering it at the third round along with the clubs in J2, but the allotment was widened to the top three clubs in 2010 due to the expansion of J2. Every other club must qualify through a qualifying cup in their own prefecture and then must enter at the first round.

2013 season[edit]

Template:JFL map 2013 The following eighteen clubs will compete in the 2013 season. The league will follow double round-robin system, home and away.

Club Name First Season
in JFL
Home Town(s) Seasons
in JFL
Qualifiable base
for J. League
Blaublitz Akita 2007 Akita Prefecture 2007– Yes
Sony Sendai 1999 Miyagi Prefecture 1999– No
Fukushima United 2013 Fukushima, Fukushima 2013– Yes
Tochigi Uva 2010 Tochigi, Tochigi 2010– Yes
Yokogawa Musashino 1999 Musashino, Tokyo 1999– No
Machida Zelvia 2009 Machida, Tokyo 2009–2011, 2013– Yes
SC Sagamihara 2013 Sagamihara, Kanagawa 2013– Yes
YSCC 2012 Yokohama, Kanagawa 2012– Yes
Nagano Parceiro 2011 Nagano, Nagano 2011– Yes
Zweigen Kanazawa 2010 Kanazawa, Ishikawa 2010– Yes
Fujieda MYFC 2012 Fujieda, Shizuoka 2012– Yes
Honda FC 1999 Hamamatsu, Shizuoka 1999– No
MIO Biwako Shiga 2008 Otsu, Shiga 2008– Yes
Sagawa Printing 2003 Uji, Kyoto 2003– No
Kamatamare Sanuki 2011 Kagawa Prefecture 2011– Yes
Hoyo Oita 2012 Oita Prefecture 2012– No
Honda Lock 2005 Miyazaki, Miyazaki 2005, 2009– No
FC Ryukyu 2006 Okinawa Prefecture 2006– Yes

Championship, promotion and relegation history[edit]

Third-tier League: 1999–2013[edit]

Season Champions Runners-up Promoted to J2 after the season Promoted from Regional Leagues before the season Relegated to Regional Leagues after the season
1999 Yokohama F.C. Honda F.C. Mito HollyHock Yokogawa Denki None
2000 Yokohama F.C. Honda F.C. Yokohama FC Tochigi S.C.
Shizuoka Kengyo University F.C.
Alo's Hokuriku
F.C. Kyoken
2001 Honda F.C. Otsuka Pharmaceutical F.C. None Sagawa Express Tokyo S.C.
S.C. Tottori
Ehime F.C.
NTT West Japan-Kumamoto
2002 Honda F.C. Sagawa Express Tokyo S.C. None Sagawa Express Osaka S.C.
Profesor Miyazaki
Shizuoka Kengyo University F.C.
Alouette Kumamoto
Profesor Miyazaki
2003 Otsuka Pharmaceutical F.C. Honda F.C. None Sagawa Printing S.C. Jatco F.C. (disbanded)
F.C. Kyoto BAMB 1993 (F.C. Kyoken)
2004 Otsuka Pharmaceutical F.C. Honda F.C. Otsuka (Tokushima Vortis)
Thespa Kusatsu
Gunma Horikoshi
Kokushikan University F.C. (forced to withdraw due to scandal)
2005 Ehime F.C. YKK AP F.C. Ehime Ryutsu Keizai University F.C.
Mitsubishi Motors Mizushima F.C.
Honda Lock S.C.
2006 Honda F.C. Sagawa Express Tokyo S.C. None JEF United Ichihara Chiba B
Rosso Kumamoto
F.C. Ryukyu
Honda Lock S.C.
(Sagawa Express Tokyo and Osaka clubs merge to form a single club)
2007 Sagawa Express S.C. Rosso Kumamoto Kumamoto
F.C. Gifu
(Alo's Hokuriku and YKK AP merge to form Kataller Toyama)
2008 Honda FC Tochigi SC Tochigi SC
Fagiano Okayama
Kataller Toyama
Fagiano Okayama
New Wave Kitakyushu
MIO Biwako Shiga
2009 Sagawa Shiga Yokogawa Musashino New Wave Kitakyushu Machida Zelvia
V-Varen Nagasaki
Honda Lock
Mitsubishi Motors Mizushima (voluntary withdrawal)
FC Kariya
2010 Gainare Tottori Sagawa Shiga Tottori Matsumoto Yamaga
Hitachi Tochigi Uva
Zweigen Kanazawa
Ryutsu Keizai University
2011 Sagawa Shiga Nagano Parceiro Machida
Kamatamare Sanuki
Nagano Parceiro
JEF Reserves (disbanded)
Arte Takasaki (disbanded)
2012 V-Varen Nagasaki Nagano Parceiro Nagasaki YSCC
Fujieda MYFC
Hoyo AC Elan Oita
Sagawa Shiga (disbanded)
2013 Nagano Parceiro Kamatamare Sanuki Sanuki SC Sagamihara
Fukushima United
*The following teams were admitted to the new J3 League: Nagano Parceiro, SC Sagamihara, Machida Zelvia, Zweigen Kanazawa, Blaublitz Akita, FC Ryukyu, YSCC, Fujieda MYFC and Fukushima United.

Fourth-tier League: 2014—[edit]

Season Champions Runners-up Promoted to J3 after the season Promoted from Regional Leagues before the season Relegated to Regional Leagues after the season
2014 Fagiano Okayama Next
Kagoshima United FC
Vanraure Hachinohe
Azul Claro Numazu
Maruyasu Industries SC
Renofa Yamaguchi

External links[edit]