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Founded1 November 1991; 32 years ago (1991-11-01)
First season1993
DivisionsJ1 League
J2 League
J3 League
Number of teams60
Level on pyramid1–3
Domestic cup(s)The JFA Emperor's Cup
Japanese Super Cup
League cup(s)J.League Cup
International cup(s)AFC Champions League Elite
Current championsJ1: Vissel Kobe (1st title)
J2: Machida Zelvia (1st title)
J3: Ehime FC (1st title)
(2023 season)
Most championshipsJ1: Kashima Antlers (8 titles)
J2: Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo (3 titles)
J3: Blaublitz Akita (2 titles)
TV partnersJ1: DAZN
WebsiteOfficial website (in English)
2024 J1 League;
23 February – 8 December

2024 J2 League;
23 February – 10 November

2024 J3 League;
23 February – 24 November

The Japan Professional Football League (日本プロサッカーリーグ, Nihon Puro Sakkā Rīgu), commonly shortened to the J.League (Japanese: Jリーグ, Hepburn: Jē Rīgu), and officially known as the Meiji Yasuda J.League (Japanese: 明治安田Jリーグ) for sponsorship with Meiji Yasuda Life, is the men's association football league in Japan. It is responsible for organizing Japan's major professional football tournaments, including the J1, J2 and J3 leagues. Established in 1993 as Asia's first professional football league, it has been one of the most successful leagues in Asia. Originally founded as a single division, in 1999, the second division J2 League was established, followed by the third division J3 League in 2013.


Before the professional league (pre-1992)[edit]

Before the inception of the J.League, the highest level of club football was the Japan Soccer League (JSL), which consisted of amateur clubs.[2][3] Despite being well-attended during the boom of the late 1960s and early 1970s (when Japan's national team won the Olympic bronze medal at the 1968 games in Mexico), the JSL went into decline in the 1980s, in general line with the deteriorating situation worldwide. Fans were few, the grounds were not of the highest quality, and the Japan national team was not on a par with the other 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. During this era, Japanese football investors traveled exclusively to Europe to find a possible model; eventually, the Japanese embraced the model of Germany's Bundesliga to develop its own professional league.[4]

The professional association 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 to Japan Football League, becoming 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.

Inaugural season and J.League boom (1993–1995)[edit]

J.League officially kicked off its first season with ten clubs on 15 May 1993, when Verdy Kawasaki hosted Yokohama Marinos at the Tokyo National Stadium.

After the boom (1996–1999)[edit]

Despite the success in the first three years, in early 1996 the league attendance declined rapidly, coincided with the economic slump of Japan. In 1997, the average attendance was 10,131, compared to more than 19,000 in 1994. Yokohama Flügels were merged with Yokohama Marinos due to the withdrawal of one of their major sponsors, right after they became the winners of the 1998 Emperor's Cup on 1 January 1999.

Change of infrastructure and game formats (1999–2004)[edit]

The league's management 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 association football clubs in the nation of Japan by 2092, which would be 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 relationships with their hometowns at the grass-root level. The league believed that this would allow the clubs to bond with their respective cities and towns and get support from local government, companies, and citizens. In other words, clubs would 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 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 Japan Football League (former), now became third-tier Japan Football League.

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. Júbilo 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 starting from 2005.

European League Format & AFC Champions League (2005–2008)[edit]

Since the 2005 season, J.League Division 1 consisted of 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 Series with the third-placed J2 club. Since then, other than minor adjustments, the top flight has stayed consistent.

Japanese teams did not treat the Asian Champions League that seriously in the early years, in part due to the distances travelled and teams played. However, in the 2008 Champions League, three Japanese sides made the quarter-finals.[5]

However, in the recent years, with the inclusion of the A-League in Eastern Asia, the 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 Kong, owing to their participation in the AFC Champions League during the 2007 season.[6] Continuous effort led to the success of Urawa Red Diamonds in 2007 and Gamba Osaka in 2008. Thanks to excellent league management and competitiveness in Asian competition, the AFC awarded J.League the highest league ranking and a total of four slots starting from the 2009 season. The league took this as an opportunity to sell TV broadcasting rights to foreign countries, especially in Asia.

Also starting the 2008 season, Emperor's Cup Winner was allowed to participate in the upcoming Champions League season, rather than waiting a whole year (i.e. 2005 Emperor's Cup winner, Tokyo Verdy, participated in the 2007 ACL season, instead of the 2006 season). In order to fix this one-year lag issue, the 2007 Emperor's Cup winner, Kashima Antlers' turn was waived. Nonetheless, Kashima Antlers ended up participating in the 2009 ACL season by winning the J.League title in the 2008 season.

Modern phase (2009–2014)[edit]

Three major changes were seen starting in the 2009 season. First, starting that season, four clubs entered the AFC Champions League. Secondly, the number of relegation slots increased to three. Finally, the AFC Player slot was implemented starting this season. Each club will be allowed to have a total of four foreign players; however, one slot is reserved for a player that derives from an AFC country other than Japan. Also, as a requirement of being a member of the Asian Football Confederation, the J.League Club License regulations started in 2012 as one criterion of whether a club was allowed to stay in its division or to be promoted to a higher tier in the professional level league. No major changes happened to J.League Division 1 as the number of clubs stayed at 18.

Three-stage system (2015–present)[edit]

From 2015 the J.League system changed to a three-stage system. The year is split into first and second league stages, followed by a third and final championship stage. The third stage is composed of stage one and two's total point champions and up to four other teams. These additional four teams consist of the following: Stage one and stage two's top point accumulator, and stage one and two's second placed points accumulator. These five teams then take part in a championship playoff stage to decide the winner of the league trophy.

In 2017, the single-table format returned due to a negative reaction from hardcore fans and a failure to appeal to casual fans.[citation needed]

Promotion and relegation between J3 and the JFL began in the 2023 season.[7] The J.League will transition to a fall–spring calendar beginning in the 2026–27 season to align with Europe competitions and the Asian Champions League as well as avoid summer matches and conflicts with international tournaments. The change was approved on December 19, 2023, following a vote of the 60 J.League clubs.[8]


Year Important events # J clubs
# ACL clubs Rel. slots
  • 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 J.League officially kicks off its first season
1994 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 3 pts for any win, 1 pts for PK loss, and 0 pts for regulation or extra time loss.
  • 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
  • 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 3 pts for the regulation win, 2 pts for extra-time win, 1 pt for PK win, and 0 pts for any loss.
  • Following club is promoted from Japan Football League: Consadole Sapporo
  • Yokohama Flügels announce that they will be dissolved into crosstown rivals Yokohama Marinos for the 1999 season
  • The league announces the J.League Hundred Year Vision
  • The league announces incorporation of two-division system for the 1999 season
  • The league hosts J.League Promotion Tournament to decide to promote and/or relegate clubs. As a result, Consadole Sapporo becomes the first club be to relegated.
  • Yokohama Marinos merge with Yokohama Flügels to become Yokohama F. Marinos
  • Penalty kick shootouts are abolished in both divisions; however, golden goal extra-time rules stayed
  • The points system changes: a club receives 3 pts for a regulation win, 2 pts for an extra time win, and 1 pt for a tie
  • Japan Football League (former) is also restructured, 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.
16/10 2
2000 16/11 2
2001 16/12 2
2002 16/12 2 2
  • Extra time is abolished in Division 1 and traditional 3–1–0 points system is adopted
16/12 2
  • No automatic relegation this season, as the top flight expands to 18 clubs in the following season
  • Inception of the two-legged Promotion / relegation Series
16/12 2 0.5
  • J.League Division 1 expands to 18 clubs
  • J.League Division 1 adopts singles-season format
18/12 2 2.5
2006 18/13 2 2.5
Note: If a Japanese club wins the AFC Champions League, the host loses its right.
18/13 2 2.5
2008 18/15 2 + 1 2.5
  • Four clubs enter AFC Champions League.
  • Implementation of a 4th foreign player slot, a.k.a. AFC player slot
  • Promotion / relegation Series is eliminated and 16th-place club is now relegated by default.
18/18 4 3
2010 18/19 4 3
2011 18/20 4 3
2012 18/22 4 3/1
2013 18/22 4 3/0.5
2014 18/22/12 4 3/1.5
  • The league goes back to split-season format
18/22/13 3+1 3/1.5
  • J.League champion qualifies to the FIFA Club World Cup as the host.
  • Kashima Antlers became the first Asian team to reach the FIFA Club World Cup final.
18/22/16 3+1 3/1.5
  • J1 League resumes single-season format
18/22/17 3+1 3/1
2018 18/22/17 3+1 2.5/2
2019 18/22/18 2+2 2.5/2
2020 J.League is disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan, thus relegation slots have been reduced 18/22/19 2+2 0/0
2021 J1 League expands to 20 teams and J3 contracts to 15, both for the 2021 season only 20/22/15 3+1 → 4 4/4
2022 J1 League reduced to 18 teams and J3 expands to 18 for 2022 season only 18/22/18 3+1 2.5/2
Year Important events # J clubs
# ACL Elite clubs # ACL Two clubs Rel. slots
2023 J3 expands to 20 for 2023 season
  • relegation J3 to JFL will be introduced.
  • J1 expand and J2 reduce to 20 teams each in J. League from 2024.
18/22/20 3+1 - 1/2/0–2
2024 J1 expand return and J2 reduced to 20 teams since 2021 and 2011 respectively from 2024 season on.
  • The three divisions of the J. Leagues will consist of 20 teams for the 2024 season
20/20/20 2+1 1 3/3/0–2

Stance in the Japanese football pyramid[edit]

2023 season
Level(s) League(s)/Division(s)
I J1 League
18 clubs (20 clubs from 2024)
II J2 League
22 clubs (20 clubs from 2024)
III J3 League
20 clubs

Since the inception of the second division in 1999, promotion and relegation follow a pattern similar to the European leagues, where the two bottom clubs of J1 and the top two clubs of J2 are guaranteed to move. From the 2004 to 2008 season, the third-placed J2 club entered the Promotion / relegation Series against the sixteenth-placed J1 club and the winner had a right to play in the top flight in the following year. Starting on the 2009 season, the 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/rel 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 has yet been denied promotion due to not meeting the J1 criteria.

Until the 2004 season, the J1 season was divided into two halves, with an annual championship series involving the champions from each half (with the exception of the 1996 season). However, from the 2005 season, the single-season format is adopted as the top flight was expanded to eighteen clubs. Currently, 18 clubs compete in double round robin, home and away. Starting on the 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 finishers, the 4th-place club receives the final berth. Starting on the 2009 season, the bottom three clubs are relegated to Division 2 at the end of the year. The two-halves format returned in 2015 but was abandoned again after 2016.

Starting in 2012, Division 2 established promotion playoffs for the clubs ranked 3rd to 6th, in a manner similar to the EFL Championship in England, the Serie B in Italy and the Segunda División in Spain. However, the semifinals would be only one leg and all matches that ended in draws would enable the higher ranked club in the table to advance or be promoted.

In 2013 the J3 League was established and while its champion was promoted automatically, the runner-up had to play a promotion/relegation series until 2017. From 2018 to 2023 two clubs was promoted automatically. From 2024 onwards, Division 3 established promotion playoffs for the clubs ranked 3rd to 6th respectively and winner playoff entered third team promotion.

From 2023 onwards, J. League introduce promotion and relegation between J3 and JFL.

The three divisions of the J. League will consist of 20 teams from 2024 season.



Membership requirements[edit]

The requirements for joining the J. League include items such as the stadium, management status and team management status. Regarding team management, not only the team itself that actually participates in the J. League game, but also the management obligation of the club youth team by the training organization (subordinate organization) are stipulated. From the 2013 season, the J. League club license system was launched and the system for judging whether or not to join the J.League and the division that can join was updated.

In addition since 2006, it has been decided to certify clubs that meet the criteria for joining the J. League after 2014, it will be called J. League 100 Year Plan club status instead.

List of member clubs[edit]

Club categories and listing order based on club composition for 2024 season.[9] As for the home stadium, the stadium shown on the J. League corporate site as of 2024 is described.[10] Regarding the descriptions in multiple materials, based on the description of the club guide on the J. League official website, the stadium name was based on the naming rights (see the article of each stadium for the handling of naming rights)

Area Club Name
Activity area/Hometown

(Home stadium)

League Year Joined
Hokkaido Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo All roads centered on Sapporo, Hokkaido
(Sapporo Dome, Toyohira ward, Sapporo)
J1 1998
Tōhoku Vanraure Hachinohe Hachinohe, Aomori
(Prifoods Stadium, Hachinohe)
J3 2019
Iwate Grulla Morioka Morioka, Iwate
(Iwagin Stadium, Morioka)
J3 2014
Vegalta Sendai Sendai, Miyagi
(Yurtec Stadium Sendai, Izumi Ward ,Sendai)
J2 1999
Blaublitz Akita Akita, Akita
(Soyu Stadium, Akita)
J2 2014
Montedio Yamagata Tendo, Yamagata
(ND Soft Stadium, Yamagata)
J2 1999
Fukushima United Fukushima, Fukushima
(Toho Stadium, Fukushima)
J3 2014
Iwaki FC Iwaki, Fukushima
(J-Village Stadium, Iwaki
Iwaki Greenfield Stadium, Iwaki)
J2 2022
Kantō Kashima Antlers Kashima, Ibaraki
(Kashima Soccer Stadium, Kashima)
J1 1993
Mito HollyHock Mito, Ibaraki
(K's denki Stadium Mito, Mito)
J2 2000
Tochigi SC Utsunomiya, Tochigi
(Kanseki Stadium Tochigi, Utsunomiya)
J2 2009
Thespa Gunma Maebashi, Gunma
(Shoda Shoyu Stadium Gunma, Maebashi)
J2 2005
Urawa Red Diamonds Saitama, Saitama
(Saitama Stadium 2002, Saitama)
J1 1991
Omiya Ardija Ōmiya, Saitama
(NACK5 Stadium Ōmiya, Ōmiya)
J3 1999
JEF United Chiba Chiba, Chiba
(Fukuda Denshi Arena, Chiba)
J2 1991
Kashiwa Reysol Kashiwa, Chiba
(Sankyo Frontier Kashiwa Stadium, Kashiwa)
J1 1995
FC Tokyo Chōfu, Tokyo
(Ajinomoto Stadium, Chōfu)
J1 1999
Tokyo Verdy Inagi, Tokyo
(Ajinomoto Stadium, Chōfu)
J1 1991
Machida Zelvia Machida, Tokyo
(Machida GION Stadium, Machida)
J1 2012
Kawasaki Frontale Kawasaki, Kanagawa
(Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium, Kawasaki)
J1 1991
Yokohama F. Marinos Yokohama, Kanagawa
(Nissan Stadium, Yokohama)
J1 1991
Yokohama FC Yokohama, Kanagawa
(Mitsuzawa Stadium, Kanagawa-ku, Yokohama)
J2 2001
YSCC Yokohama Yokohama, Kanagawa
(Mitsuzawa Stadium, Kanagawa-ku, Yokohama)
J2 2014
Shonan Bellmare Hiratsuka, Kanagawa
(Lemon Gas Stadium Hiratsuka, Hiratsuka)
J1 1994
SC Sagamihara Sagamihara, Kanagawa
(Sagamihara Gion Stadium, Sagamihara)
J3 2014
Ventforet Kofu Kōfu, Yamanashi
(JIT Recycle Ink Stadium, Kōfu)
J2 1999
Hokuriku and Shin'etsu

Matsumoto Yamaga Matsumoto, Nagano
(Sunpro Alwin, Matsumoto)
J3 2012
Nagano Parceiro Nagano, Nagano
(Nagano U Stadium, Nagano)
J3 2014
Albirex Niigata Niigata, Niigata
(Denka Big Swan Stadium, Niigata)
J1 1999
Kataller Toyama Toyama, Toyama
(Toyama Stadium, Toyama)
J3 2009
Zweigen Kanazawa Kanazawa, Ishikawa
(Ishikawa Athletics Stadium, Kanazawa)
J3 2014
Tōkai Shimizu S-Pulse Shimizu-ku, Shizuoka, Shizuoka
(IAI Stadium Nihondaira, Shimizu)
J2 1991
Jubilo Iwata Iwata, Shizuoka
(Yamaha Stadium, Iwata)
J1 1994
Fujieda MYFC Fujieda, Shizuoka
(Fujieda Soccer Stadium, Fujieda)
J2 2014
Azul Claro Numazu Numazu, Shizuoka
(Shizuoka Ashitaka Athletic Stadium, Numazu)
J3 2017
Nagoya Grampus Nagoya, Aichi
(Paloma Mizuho Stadium, Nagoya
Toyota Stadium, Toyota)
J1 1991
FC Gifu Gifu, Gifu
(Gifu Nagaragawa Stadium, Gifu)
J3 2008
Kansai Kyoto Sanga Kyoto, Kyoto
(Sanga Stadium by Kyocera, Kameoka)
J1 1996
Gamba Osaka Suita, Osaka
(Panasonic Stadium Suita, Suita)
J1 1991
Cerezo Osaka Osaka, Osaka
(Yanmar Stadium Nagai, Osaka
Yodoko Sakura Stadium, Nagai Park, Higashisumiyoshi ward, Osaka)
J1 1995
FC Osaka Higashiōsaka, Osaka
(J-Green Sakai Main Field, Hattori Ryokuchi Park, Toyonaka, Osaka
Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Higashiōsaka)
J3 2023
Vissel Kobe Kobe, Hyōgo
(Noevir Stadium Kobe, Kobe)
J1 1997
Nara Club Nara, Nara
(Rohto Field Nara, Nara)
J3 2023
Chūgoku Gainare Tottori Tottori, Tottori
(Axis Bird Stadium, Tottori)
J3 2011
Fagiano Okayama Okayama, Okayama
(City Light Stadium, Okayama)
J2 2009
Sanfrecce Hiroshima Hiroshima, Hiroshima
(Edion Stadium Hiroshima, Asaminami Ward)
J1 1991
Renofa Yamaguchi Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi
(Ishin Me-Life Stadium, Yamaguchi)
J2 2015
Shikoku Kamatamare Sanuki Takamatsu, Kagawa
(Pikara Stadium, Marugame)
J3 2014
Tokushima Vortis Tokushima, Tokushima
(Pocarisweat Stadium, Naruto)
J2 2005
Ehime FC Matsuyama, Ehime
(Ningineer Stadium, Matsuyama)
J2 2006
FC Imabari Imabari, Ehime
(Imabari Satoyama Stadium, Imabari)
J3 2020
Kyushu Avispa Fukuoka Fukuoka, Fukuoka
(Best Denki Stadium, Hakata ward)
J1 1996
Giravanz Kitakyushu Kitakyushu, Fukuoka
(Mikuni World Stadium Kitakyushu, Kokurakita Ward)
J3 2010
Sagan Tosu Tosu, Saga
(Ekimae Real Estate Stadium, Tosu)
J1 1999
V-Varen Nagasaki Nagasaki, Nagasaki
(Transcosmos Stadium Nagasaki, Isahaya)
J2 2013
Roasso Kumamoto Kumamoto, Kumamoto
(Egao Kenko Stadium, Higashi Ward)
J2 2008
Oita Trinita Oita, Oita
(Resonac Dome Oita, Oita)
J2 1999
Tegevajaro Miyazaki Miyazaki, Miyazaki
(Unilever Stadium Shintomi, Shintomi)
J3 2021
Kagoshima United Kagoshima, Kagoshima
(Shiranami Stadium, Kagoshima)
J2 2016
FC Ryukyu Okinawa
(Tapic Kenso Hiyagon Stadium, Okinawa)
J3 2014

Clubs with J3 licenses[edit]

Clubs that have not joined the J. League but have been granted a J3 license for the 2023 season (including the J. League 100 year concept club).

Area Club Name
Activity area/Hometown

(Home stadium)

League Year Approval Year Withdrawal
Tohoku ReinMeer Aomori Aomori, Aomori Prefecture
(New Aomori Prefecture General Sports Park)
JFL 2019 2023
Tokai Veertien Mie Kuwana, Mie Prefecture
(Toin Stadium, Yokkaichi Central Greenery Stadium)
Shikoku Kochi United Kōchi, Kōchi Prefecture
(Kochi Haruno Athletic Stadium)
Kyushu Verspah Oita Ōita, Ōita Prefecture
(Ōita Sports Park)

J.League 100 Year Plan Club[edit]

The home stadium is at the time of approval of the 100 year plan club and at the time of J3 admission examination in 2020 Based on the official J. League release.[11][12]

Area Club Name
Activity area/Hometown

(Home stadium)

League Year Approval
Kantō Tochigi City FC Tochigi, Tochigi
(City Football Station, Tochigi)
Kantō Soccer League Div. 1 2014
Vonds Ichihara Ichihara, Chiba
(Ichihara Seaside Stadium, Ichihara)
Nankatsu SC Katsushika, Tokyo
(Okudo Sports Center Park, Katsushika)
Tokyo 23 FC Special wards of Tokyo
(Edogawa Stadium, Edogawa)
Criacao Shinjuku Shinjuku, Tokyo
(AGF Field, Tokyo)
JFL 2021

Former Clubs that were regular members of the J.League[edit]

Club Name
Activity area/Hometown

(Home stadium)

Yokohama Flügels Yokohama, Kanagawa
(Mitsuzawa Stadium, Yokohama)

Clubs that were former J.League associate members, associate members and Centennial Clubs[edit]

Club Name
Activity area/Hometown

(Home stadium)

Tosu Futures Tosu, Saga
(Ekimae Real Estate Stadium, Tosu)
Hamamatsu FC Hamamatsu, Shizuoka
(Honda Miyakoda Soccer Stadium, Kita Ward)
Tonan Maebashi Maebashi, Gunma
(Maebashi Athletic Stadium, Maebashi)
Tokyo Musashino City FC Musashino, Tokyo
(Musashino Municipal Athletic Stadium, Musashino)
Suzuka Point Getters Suzuka, Mie
(Mie Suzuka Sports Garden, Mie)
Cobaltore Onagawa Onagawa, Miyagi
Onagawa Town Comprehensive Athletic Park, Onagawa
Okinawa SV Tomigusuku and Uruma, Okinawa
(various in Okinawa)


Year J1 Champions J2 Champions J3 Champions
Verdy Kawasaki (Old JFL) (Old JFL Div. 2)
Verdy Kawasaki No national third tier
Yokohama Marinos
Kashima Antlers
Júbilo Iwata
Kashima Antlers
Júbilo Iwata Kawasaki Frontale (New JFL)
Kashima Antlers Consadole Sapporo
Kashima Antlers Kyoto Purple Sanga
Júbilo Iwata Oita Trinita
Yokohama F. Marinos Albirex Niigata
Yokohama F. Marinos Kawasaki Frontale
Gamba Osaka Kyoto Purple Sanga
Urawa Red Diamonds Yokohama FC
Kashima Antlers Consadole Sapporo
Kashima Antlers Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Kashima Antlers Vegalta Sendai
Nagoya Grampus Kashiwa Reysol
Kashiwa Reysol FC Tokyo
Sanfrecce Hiroshima Ventforet Kofu
Sanfrecce Hiroshima Gamba Osaka
Gamba Osaka Shonan Bellmare Zweigen Kanazawa
Sanfrecce Hiroshima Omiya Ardija Renofa Yamaguchi
Kashima Antlers Consadole Sapporo Oita Trinita
Kawasaki Frontale Shonan Bellmare Blaublitz Akita
Kawasaki Frontale Matsumoto Yamaga FC Ryukyu
Yokohama F. Marinos Kashiwa Reysol Giravanz Kitakyushu
Kawasaki Frontale Tokushima Vortis Blaublitz Akita
Kawasaki Frontale Júbilo Iwata Roasso Kumamoto
Yokohama F. Marinos Albirex Niigata Iwaki FC
Vissel Kobe Machida Zelvia Ehime FC

Promotion and relegation[edit]

Changes in the number of clubs promotion and relegation system[edit]

J1 Entry playoffs have been introduced from 2018, 2019 and 2022 respectively. Relegation from J1 to J2 introduced from 1999, J2 to J3 introduced from 2013 and J3 to JFL introduced from 2023. J1 Promotion playoff introduce from 2012 to 2017, reintroduced in 2023 onwards and J2 Promotion playoff to be introduce start from 2024.

In 1998, the J1 entry decision match was held. From 1999, a replacement system was introduced with the transition to a two-part system of J1 and J2. Since 2012, a replacement system has been introduced between J2 and the lower league (Japan Football League (JFL) in 2012, J3 after the 2013 postseason).

  • Until the introduction of the J.League club license system in 2012, if a J2 club that obtained the right to be promoted to J1 through the examination by the J.League did not meet J1 standards, the promotion to J1 would be revoked, and the relegation to J2 from the 16th place in J1 would also be revoked. could have been used, but there have been no cases in which it has actually been applied.
  • If a club that has received a loan from the official match stable holding fund cannot repay it by the repayment date, the club belonging to J1 will be demoted to J2 even if it is in the order to remain in J1, and the club belonging to J2 will be promoted to J1. However, the promotion will be postponed. It is unknown whether promotion will be postponed even if it is a rank that can be promoted to J2 in the clubs belonging to J3. However, at the end of the 2021 season, the only cases in which this system could have been applied in the past were Oita in 2013.
  • After the 2012 postseason (entry in 2013), in order to enter the J1, J2 and J3 leagues, it is necessary to obtain a license for that league or higher under the club license system.
  • If the number of matches that have been completed does not reach 75% of the total number of matches scheduled for the year in the J1/J2/J3 league, or if the number of matches in the category to which one belongs falls short of 50% of the total number of matches scheduled for that year. If there is a club that does not exist, the tournament will be disqualified and no promotion or relegation will take place.

Year Teams J1 JFL Remarks
Number JFL Relegation J League Entry
1993 10 10 No Relegation Hiratsuka
1994 12 12 C Osaka
1995 14 14 Fukuoka
1996 16 16 Kobe
1997 17 17 Sapporo
Year Teams J1 J2 JFL Remarks
Number J2 Relegation J1 Promotion Number JFL Relegation J League Entry
1998 18 18 Sapporo 9 clubs from old JFL[nb 1] J1 Entry playoff introduced
1999 26 16 Urawa
FC Tokyo
10 No Relegation Mito 2 teams automatically relegation from J1 to J2
2000 27 Kyoto
11 Yokohama FC
2001 28 Fukuoka
C Osaka
2002 Hiroshima
C Osaka
2003 Sendai
2004 None Kawasaki
J1-J2 Entry Playoffs to be introduced
2005 30 18 Kashiwa†
Tokyo V
Ehime Automatic replacement 2 clubs to J2 + J1/J2 playoff match
2006 31 Fukuoka†
C Osaka
Yokohama FC
2007 Hiroshima†
Yokohama FC
Tokyo V
2008 33 Tokyo V
15 Tochigi
2009 36 Kashiwa
C Osaka
18 Kitakyushu Automatic replacement 3 clubs to J2
2010 37 FC Tokyo
19 Tottori
2011 38 Kofu
FC Tokyo
20 Machida
2012 40 Kobe
G Osaka
22 Machida Nagasaki J1 promotion playoff start from 2013
Year Teams J1 J2 J3 JFL Remarks
Number J2 Relegation J1 Promotion Number J3 Relegation J2 Promotion Number JFL Relegation J League Entry
2013 40 18 Shonan
G Osaka
22 Tottori Sanuki
10 clubs from New JFL[nb 2]
Sanuki is the result of the J2-JFL exchange match, 10 clubs enter J3 from JFL, that club automatically promotion from JFL to J2 from 2014
2014 51 Omiya
C Osaka
Toyama Kanazawa 12 No Relegation Yamaguchi Introduction of J2-J3 replacement games
2015 52 Matsumoto
13 Kagoshima None
2016 53 Nagoya
C Osaka
Kitakyushu Oita 16 Numazu
2017 54 Kofu
Gunma Tochigi 17 J2-J3 replacement games has been abolished in 2017
2018 Kashiwa
Hachinohe J1 entry playoff start for 2018
2019 55 Matsumoto
Yokohama FC
18 Imabari None
2020 56 Tokushima
Miyazaki No relegation and J1 entry playoffs from 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic.
2021 57 20 Tokushima
Yokohama FC
15 Iwaki No J1 entry playoffs for 2021
2022 58 18 Shimizu
Yokohama FC
18 Nara
FC Osaka
2023 60 Yokohama FC Machida
Tokyo V
20 J1 promotion playoff return for 2023 onwards
2024 20 20 J2 promotion playoff introduced from 2024 onwards
  • Those with "†" are promotions and promotions based on the result of the shunting match. Remaining in the shunting and entry playoffs is not reflected.
  • The number of J3 teams includes the number of 2014 and 2015 J.League Under 22 teams and the number of U-23 teams from 2016 to 2020.

About the future[edit]

The J.League has announced a policy of setting a maximum of 20 teams for the J3 League and 60 teams for the total number of regular member teams including J1 and J2. According to interviews with people involved in the J.League, it has become clear that J1, J2 and J3 are proposing to have 20 teams each from 2024 at the earliest.

In conjunction with the increase in the number of teams, this is a new growth strategy that revises the ratio of equal distribution money and in particular, the policy of grading allocation centered on the top clubs of J1. It is said that the aim is to improve the value of the J. League by increasing the provision of high quality matches. If there are 20 teams in each class, in 2023, only the lowest (18th) club will be demoted from J1 to J2 and conversely, 3 clubs will be promoted from J2 to J1. It is said that there is.

After that, on 20 December 2022, based on the J League's two new growth strategies ("60 clubs shine in their respective regions" and "top tier shines as national (global) content"), From the 2024 season, J1, J2 and J3 will have 20 teams each and J. League cup games will officially be renewed to a knockout (tournament) format in which all 60 clubs from J1, J2 and J3 will participate was announced in.


The first official J.League Anthem - "J'S THEME" debuted in 1993 and was composed by Michiya Haruhata. It was used during league broadcasts and as a prelude to kickoff at stadiums.

J.League and J.League clubs make the most out of their logos / emblems and mascots for branding and marketing.


See also[edit]



  1. ^ 9 clubs: Sendai, Yamagata, Omiya, FC Tokyo, Kawasaki, Kofu, Niigata, Tosu and Oita.
  2. ^ 9 clubs from the New JFL: Akita, Fukushima, Machida, Sagamihara, YS Yokohama, Nagano, Kanazawa, Fujieda, Ryukyu and one club from the Japanese Regional Leagues, Morioka (part of Tohoku Soccer League).


  1. ^ サッカー用語集 [Football glossary]. JFA (in Japanese). Japan Football Association. January 25, 2017. Archived from the original on February 13, 2019. Retrieved February 24, 2019. 「日本プロサッカーリーグ」の読みは、「にほんプロサッカーリーグ」。
  2. ^ "Football finds a home in Japan". FIFA.com. December 12, 2005. Archived from the original on December 13, 2013. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
  3. ^ "When Saturday Comes - How Japan created a successful league". Wsc.co.uk. July 18, 2010. Archived from the original on August 9, 2016. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
  4. ^ "German Bundesliga, Japanese Football Share Mutually Beneficial Relationship". Bleacher Report. Archived from the original on 2021-01-30. Retrieved 2020-09-19.
  5. ^ John Duerden (August 11, 2008). "Asian Debate: Is Japan Becoming Asia's Leader?". Goal.com. Archived from the original on January 21, 2014. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  6. ^ 川崎Fが香港でブレーク中、生中継で火 (in Japanese). NikkanSports. March 8, 2008. Archived from the original on March 12, 2008. Retrieved March 8, 2008.
  7. ^ "Promotion and Relegation between J3 and JFL from 2023 Season" (Press release). J.League. January 6, 2023. Archived from the original on January 6, 2023. Retrieved December 20, 2023.
  8. ^ "J. League board approves August start to season from 2026". The Japan Times. Kyodo News. December 20, 2023. Archived from the original on December 20, 2023. Retrieved December 20, 2023.
  9. ^ "2023 Jリーグ クラブ編成" (Press release). 日本プロサッカーリーグ. 2022-12-20. Archived from the original on 2022-12-20. Retrieved 2022-12-21.
  10. ^ "スタジアム情報一覧". 日本プロサッカーリーグ(Jリーグ)組織・経営情報. Archived from the original on 2023-06-06. Retrieved 2023-07-26.
  11. ^ "Jリーグ百年構想クラブ 審査結果について" (Press release). 日本プロサッカーリーグ. 2019-02-19. Archived from the original on 2021-05-12. Retrieved 2020-11-17.
  12. ^ "Jリーグ入会審査 (J3) 結果について" (Press release). 日本プロサッカーリーグ. 2019-11-17. Archived from the original on 2020-11-17. Retrieved 2020-11-17.

External links[edit]