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The JLeague Jリーグ, J Rīgu Japan Professional Football League 日本プロサッカーリーグ, Nippon Puro Sakkā Rīgu is Japan's professional football league including the first division J1 League, second division J2 League and third division J3 League1234567 J1 League is one of the most successful leagues in Asian club football It is currently sponsored by Meiji Yasuda Life and thus officially known as the Meiji Yasuda JLeague


  • 1 History
    • 11 Phases of J1
      • 111 Before the professional league pre-1992
      • 112 Inaugural season and JLeague boom 1993–1995
      • 113 After the boom 1996–1999
      • 114 Change of infrastructure and game formats 1999–2004
      • 115 European League Format & AFC Champions League 2005–2008
      • 116 Modern phase 2009–2014
      • 117 Future 2015–
    • 12 Timeline
  • 2 Stance in the Japanese football pyramid
  • 3 JLeague awards
    • 31 JLeague 20th Anniversary Team
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links


For history of Japanese club association football before the inception of the professional league in 1993, see Japan Soccer League For detailed history of J2 League, see J2 League § History

Phases of J1edit

Before the professional league pre-1992edit

Before the inception of the JLeague, the highest level of club football was the Japan Soccer League JSL, which consisted of amateur clubs89 Despite being well-attended during the boom of the late 1960s and early 1970s when Japan's national team won the bronze Olympic 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 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 association football league, JLeague 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 JLeague 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 JLeague boom 1993–1995edit

JLeague officially kicked-off its first season with ten clubs on May 15, 1993, as Verdy Kawasaki !Verdy Kawasaki current, Tokyo Verdy played host to Yokohama F Marinos !Yokohama F Marinos current, Yokohama F Marinos at the Kasumigaoka National Stadium

After the boom 1996–1999edit

Despite the success in the first three years, in early 1996 the league attendance declined rapidly In 1997, the average attendance was 10,131, compared to more than 19,000 in 1994

Change of infrastructure and game formats 1999–2004edit

Main article: J2 League

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 JLeague 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 JLeague Division 1 J1 with 16 clubs while JLeague 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 !Júbilo Iwata in 2002, and Yokohama F Marinos !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 2005–2008edit

Since the 2005 season, JLeague 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 25, 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-finals10

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 !Kawasaki Frontale built up a notable fan base in Hong Kong, owing to their participation in the AFC Champions League during the 2007 season11 Continuous effort led to the success of Urawa Red Diamonds !Urawa Red Diamonds in 2007 and Gamba Osaka !Gamba Osaka in 2008 Thanks to excellent league management and competitiveness in Asian competition, the AFC awarded JLeague 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 ie 2005 Emperor's Cup winner, Tokyo Verdy !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 !Kashima Antlers' turn was waived Nonetheless, Kashima Antlers ended up participating in the 2009 ACL season by winning the JLeague title in the 2008 season

Modern phase 2009–2014edit

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 JLeague 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 JLeague Division 1 as the number of clubs stayed at 18

Future 2015–edit

From 2015 the JLeague 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


Year Important Events # J Clubs # ACL Clubs Rele 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 professional league, JLeague 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 Japan Football League former
  • JLeague hosts the first domestic league cup competition with the ten clubs
  • The JLeague officially kicks off its first season
  • Following clubs are promoted from Japan Football League: Júbilo Iwata and Bellmare Hiratsuka
  • 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
  • JLeague 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 JLeague Hundred Year Vision
  • The league announces incorporation of two-division system for the 1999 season
  • The league hosts JLeague 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 2
2000 16 2
2001 16 2
2002 16 2 2
  • Extra time is abolished in Division 1 and traditional 3–1–0 points system is adopted
16 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 2 05
  • JLeague Division 1 expands to 18 clubs
  • JLeague Division 1 adopts singles-season format
18 2 25
  • Away goals rule is adopted in Yamazaki Nabisco Cup and Promotion / Relegation Series
  • The league forms JLeague expansion committee
  • The league reintroduces JLeague Associate Membership
18 2 25
  • JLeague champion qualifies to the FIFA Club World Cup as the host for next two seasons
Note: If a Japanese club wins the AFC Champions League, the host loses its right
  • Urawa Red Diamonds becomes the first Japanese club to win the AFC Champions League since its rebranding in 2002
18 2 25
  • Gamba Osaka wins the 2008 AFC Champions League, the second straight championship by a JLeague club
18 2 + 1 25
  • Four clubs enter AFC Champions League
  • Implementation of a 4th foreign player slot, aka AFC player slot
  • Promotion / Relegation Series is eliminated and 16th-place club is now relegated by default
18 4 3
2010 18 4 3
  • JLeague champion qualifies to the FIFA Club World Cup as the host for next two seasons again
18 4 3
2012 18 4 3
2013 18 4 3
2014 18 4 3
  • The league goes back to split-season format
18 4 3
  • JLeague 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 4 3
  • J1 League resumes single-season format
18 4 3

Stance in the Japanese football pyramidedit

Main article: Japanese association football league system
Levels Leagues/Divisions
I J1 League
18 clubs
II J2 League
22 clubs
III J3 League
14 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 is yet to be 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

JLeague awardsedit

  • Manager of the Year Award
  • Most Valuable Player Award
  • Top Scorer Award
  • Rookie of the Year Award
  • Best XI Award

JLeague 20th Anniversary Teamedit

Position Name
Goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi
Defender Naoki Matsuda
Defender Yuji Nakazawa
Defender Masami Ihara
Midfielder Yasuhito Endō
Midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata
Midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura
Midfielder Hiroshi Nanami
Forward Kazuyoshi Miura
Forward Masashi Nakayama
Forward Dragan Stojković

See alsoedit

  • JLeague records
  • J League contracts
  • J League awards
  • JLeague designated special players
  • JLeague MVP of the month
  • JLeague historical goals
  • Japan derbies
  • FIFA 17
  • List of JLeague licensed video games
  • List of JLeague mascots


  1. ^ "J-League History Part 1: Professional football begins in Japan" Goalcom 2013-09-09 Retrieved 2013-12-12 
  2. ^ "J-League History Part 2: Verdy Kawasaki dominates the early years" Goalcom 2013-09-09 Retrieved 2013-12-12 
  3. ^ "J-League History Part 3: Growing pains emerge on the road to the 2002 World Cup" Goalcom 2013-09-09 Retrieved 2013-12-12 
  4. ^ "J-League History Part 4: Exporting Talent" Goalcom 2013-09-09 Retrieved 2013-12-12 
  5. ^ "J-League History Part 5: Expansion, success, and a bright future" Goalcom 2013-09-09 Retrieved 2013-12-12 
  6. ^ "Tokyo Journal; Japan Falls for Soccer, Leaving Baseball in Lurch - New York Times" Nytimescom 1994-06-06 Retrieved 2013-11-17 
  7. ^ "Japan Wages Soccer Campaign" CSMonitorcom Retrieved 2013-11-17 
  8. ^ "Football finds a home in Japan" FIFAcom 2005-12-02 Retrieved 2013-12-12 
  9. ^ "When Saturday Comes - How Japan created a successful league" Wsccouk 2010-07-18 Retrieved 2013-12-12 
  10. ^ John Duerden 11 August 2008 "Asian Debate: Is Japan Becoming Asia's Leader" Goalcom Retrieved 19 August 2012 
  11. ^ 川崎Fが香港でブレーク中、生中継で火 in Japanese NikkanSports March 8, 2008 Retrieved March 8, 2008 

External linksedit

  • Official Website
  • Official Facebook
  • Official Twitter
  • Official Instagram in Japanese
  • Official YouTube Channel in Japanese

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