Japan Soccer League
|Number of teams||12|
|Levels on pyramid||1 (1965–1971)
|Relegation to||Regional Leagues|
|Domestic cup(s)||JSL Cup
|International cup(s)||Asian Club Championship
Asian Cup Winners' Cup
|Last champions||Yomiuri S.C.
|Most championships||Yomiuri S.C. and Mazda S.C.
(5 titles each)
Japan Soccer League (日本サッカーリーグ Nihon Sakkā Rīgu ), or JSL, was the top flight soccer league in Japan between 1965 and 1992, and was the precursor to the current professional league, the J. League. JSL was the second national league of a team sport in Japan after the professional Japanese Baseball League that was founded in 1936. JSL was the first-ever national league of an amateur team sport in Japan.
Each JSL team represented a corporation, and like Japanese baseball teams, went by the name of the company that owned the team. Unlike in baseball, however, promotion and relegation was followed, as J. League follows today. The players were officially amateur and were employees of the parent corporations, but especially in later years, top players were generally paid strictly to play soccer.
Originally the JSL consisted of a single division, but in 1972 a Second Division was added. Clubs could join in by winning the All Japan Senior Football Championship cup competition and then winning a promotion/relegation series against the bottom teams in the JSL. From 1973 to 1980, both the champions and runners-up of the Second Division had to play the promotion/relegation series against the First Division's bottom clubs; afterwards and until 1984, only the runners-up had to play the series.
Top JSL teams included Hitachi Ltd., Furukawa Electric, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Nissan Motors, Toyo Industries (Mazda) and Yomiuri Shimbun, which are now, respectively, Kashiwa Reysol, JEF United Ichihara Chiba, Urawa Red Diamonds, Yokohama F. Marinos, Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Tokyo Verdy. Furukawa/JEF United was the only one never to be relegated to the Second Division and kept this distinction until 2009.
In 1991, club owners met and agreed to disband the league, and reorganize as the professional J. League. JSL played its final season in 1991/92 and the J. League began play in 1993. Top nine JSL clubs, (along with the independent Shimizu S-Pulse) became the original J. League members. The others except Yomiuri Junior who merged with their parent club Yomiuri Club joined the newly formed Japan Football League.
All-time JSL member clubs
Original 8 Clubs
- Furukawa Electric (1965-1992) - JEF United Ichihara Chiba
- Hitachi Head Office / Hitachi (1965-1992) - Kashiwa Reysol
- Mitsubishi Heavy Industries / Mitsubishi Motors (1965-1992) - Urawa Red Diamonds
- Toyoda Automatic Loom Works (1965-1968, 1972-1973) - in Aichi Prefecture Div. 1
- Nagoya Sogo Ginko (Mutual Bank)(1965-1966, 1968-1971) - Nagoya WEST.F.C. in Aichi Prefecture Div. 1
- Yanmar Diesel (1965-1992) - Cerezo Osaka
- Toyo Industries / Mazda (1965-1992) - Sanfrecce Hiroshima
- Yawata Steel F.C. / Nippon Steel (1965-1991) - defunct
Other First Division Clubs
In order of their promotion to First Division.
- Nippon Kokan (Nippon Steel Piping) / NKK F.C. (1967-1992)- defunct
- Towa Real Estate / Fujita Industry / Fujita (1972-1992) - Shonan Bellmare
- Toyota Motor Industry / Toyota Motor (1972-1992) - Nagoya Grampus
- Tanabe Seiyaku (Pharmaceutical) (1972-1992) - Osaka Prefectural League Div. 3 Group C
- Eidai Sangyo (Industries) (1972-1977) - defunct
- Fujitsu (1972-1992) - Kawasaki Frontale
- Yomiuri (1972-1992) - Tokyo Verdy
- Nissan Motors (1976-1992) - Yokohama F. Marinos
- Yamaha Motor (1979-1992) - Júbilo Iwata
- Honda (1975-1992) - Honda F.C. in JFL
- Sumitomo Metal Industries (1973-1992) - Kashima Antlers
- Yokohama Tristar / ANA (1983-1992) - Yokohama Flügels, defunct
- Matsushita Electric Industrial (1984-1992) - Gamba Osaka
- Toshiba Horikawacho / Toshiba (1978-1992) - Consadole Sapporo
Famous Second Division Clubs
Many of these clubs would only be promoted to the top flight after the J. League was created.
- Kofu Club (1972-1992) - Ventforet Kofu
- Kyoto Shiko Club (1972-1978, 1988-1992) - Kyoto Purple Sanga - Kyoto Sanga FC (since 2007)
(splinter Kyoto Shiko Club formed 1993 now competes in Kansai Div. 2)
- Kawasaki Steel (1986-1992) - Vissel Kobe
- NTT Kanto (1987-1992) - Omiya Ardija
- Otsuka Pharmaceutical (1990-1992) - Tokushima Vortis
- Tokyo Gas (1992-1992) - F.C. Tokyo
- Chūō Bohan (Central Crime Prevention)(1992-1992) - Avispa Fukuoka
- TDK (1985-1987) - Blaublitz Akita in JFL
- Final tables from 1965 on (First Division only) at rsssf.com
- Soccerphile: History of Japanese football
- BBC Sport: "How football went Japanese"
- Contents of Domestic Competition of Football in Japan