Guide of football league in Japan

Let’s enjoy a journey for J.League, football league in Japan!

◆Official site

Asian Football Confederation (AFC)

◆Official name of first division of the competition
Meiji Yasuda J.League Division 1 (明治安田生命Jリーグディビジョン1)
※ Known as J1

◆Number of teams of J1

◆Competition format
Double round-robin system including all 18 clubs in one-stage system.
※ Total of 34 games.

From late February to early December

◆Numbers of a match of registered/substituted players

◆Cautions and suspension
Four cautions provide suspention in one match, and after this, four provide suspention in two.

◆Number of non-citizen players
Foreign nationals do not have a registration frame, the bench entrance and the participation quota of foreign players are five. The conventional Asian border will be treated as a foreigner. Players who have nationality of J.League partner countries (Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Qatar) are not considered foreign players.

◆Transfer window
From 4 January to 27 March and from 13 July to 12 August in 2020 season.

◆Rules for classification
1) Points
2) Goal difference
3) Goals scored
4) Head-to-head points
5) Head-to-head goal difference
6) Head-to-head goals scored

◆Number of eligible teams in AFC Champions League (ACL)
Equivalent to 3.5 teams.
※ Winners and runners-up of J1 and winners of the Emperor’s Cup participate group stage of AFC Champions League.
※ 3rd place of J1 participate play-off stage of AFC Champions League.

◆J.League division 2 (J2)
22 teams participate J2, in which each club plays the others twice (a double round-robin system), once at their home stadium and once at that of their opponents’.

◆J.League division 3 (J3)
19 teams participate J3, in which each club plays the others twice (a double round-robin system), once at their home stadium and once at that of their opponents’.

◆Numbers of teams which will promote/relegate
Number of teams which will promote to J1 or relegate to J2 is 2.5. 17th and 18th place teams of J1 relegate automatically to J2 and winners and runners-up of J2 promote to J1. 16th place team of J1 and 3rd to 6th place teams of J2 join promotion/relegation play-offs. Number of teams which will promote to J2 or relegate to J3 is 1.5. 22th place team of J2 relegate automatically to J3 and winner of J3 promote to J2. 21th place team of J2 and runners-up of J3 join promotion/relegation play-offs.

◆Other competitions
◇Emperor’s Cup
Emperor’s Cup is a single-match tournament which professional and amateur teams participate presented by Japan Football Association (JFA). Its schedule is from late May to early January. J1 teams participate 2nd match (Round of 64).
◇Levain Cup
Levain Cup is a league cup presented by J.League. Its schedule is from early March to late October.
Competition format is described as below.
1) Group stage in which 16 teams compete which includes J1 and J2 teams.
2) Play-off stage in which 10 teams, winners of group stage compete.
3) Knockout stage in which 5 teams, winners of play-off stage and teams which participate ACL.
◇Xerox Supercup
This supercup is one-match competition in which winners of J1 and that of Emperor’s Cup compete. That is held just before the opening matches of J1.

◆Avarage attendance of J1
20,751 in 2019 season

◆Teams in J1 in 2020 season
Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo (北海道コンサドーレ札幌)
Vegalta Sendai (ベガルタ仙台)
Kashima Antlers (鹿島アントラーズ)
Urawa Red Diamonds (浦和レッドダイヤモンズ)
Kashiwa Reysol (柏レイソル)
F.C. Tokyo (FC東京)
Kawasaki Frontale (川崎フロンターレ)
Yokohama F・Marinos (横浜F・マリノス)
Yokohama FC(横浜FC)
Matsumoto Yamaga FC (松本山雅FC)
Shimizu S-Pulse (清水エスパルス)
Nagoya Grampus Eight (名古屋グランパスエイト)
Gamba Osaka (ガンバ大阪)
Cerezo Osaka (セレッソ大阪)
Vissel Kobe (ヴィッセル神戸)
Sanfrecce Hiroshima F.C (サンフレッチェ広島F.C)
Sagan Tosu (サガン鳥栖)
Oita Trinita (大分トリニータ)

◆Recent topics
Tokyo Olympics is essential thing to explain J.League this year.
Football matches of the Olympics will hosted at stadiums including six stadiums where J.League has been held regularly from 22 July to 8 August. Therefore all divisions of J.League matches cannot be in progress in the 18 days. J.League Cup / Copa Sudamericana Championship is suspended this year for the same reason.
The start of 2020 season of J.League is moved forward in 21 February, and problem of tight schedule will getting more severe from the very nature.
Nevertheless, heads of JFA (Japan Football Association) and J.League do not seem to change the schedule.
JFA’s obsession for holding the final of Emperor’s Cup at 1st January caused extremely short winter days-off of which period is only a week of runners-up of Emperor’s Cup, Kashima Antlers, which lost a match of ACL2020 play-off against Melbourne Victory at 28 January. The defeat meant that the club is the first one which was eliminated from ACL Play-off Stage.
Head of J.League absolutely insists on holding the first stage of Levain Cup with double round-robin tournament which brings many games while the cup is league cup. Many people worry that overwork leads worsening injury of players.
J.League, however, provides scenes of stadiums where people of all ages and both sexes gather. J.League has a strong point of which soccer fans should be proud before the whole world.
Many clubs give guests warm hospitality with stands where salespersons sells rich foods and drinks. Influence of Japanese culture of mascots of lax character for club mascots brings about promotion of the clubs. Mascots of many clubs come to the front in the promotion contents. It is striking point that people who love football can go to the stadium where grave cases seldom occur by hooligans when games of J.League are held. That is why number of average of attendance is increasing from 19,064 to 20,751 between 2018 and 2019.
I hope for J.League’s everlasting development.

◆Related pages
In Japanese
In Spanish

◆Last edited
2 February, 2020

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