The J1 League (Japanese: J1リーグ, Hepburn: Jē-wan Rīgu), a.k.a the J.League or the Meiji Yasuda J1 League (Japanese: 明治安田J1リーグ, Hepburn: Meiji Yasuda Jē-wan Rīgu) for sponsorship reasons,[2] is the top level of the Japan Professional Football League (日本プロサッカーリーグ, Nihon Puro Sakkā Rīgu) system.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10] Founded in 1992, it is one of the most successful leagues in Asian professional club football history. Contested by 20 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the J2 League. It was known as the J.League from 1993 to 1998 before becoming a two-division league, and as J.League Division 1 from 1999 to 2014.

J1 League
Organising bodyJ.League
Founded1992; 32 years ago (1992)
CountryJapan
ConfederationAFC
Number of teams20
Level on pyramid1
Relegation toJ2 League
Domestic cup(s)The JFA Emperor's Cup
Fujifilm Super Cup
League cup(s)YBC Levain Cup
International cup(s)AFC Champions League Elite
AFC Champions League 2
Current championsVissel Kobe (1st title)
(2023)
Most championshipsKashima Antlers (8 titles)
Top goalscorerYoshito Ōkubo (179 goals)
TV partnersDAZN (including Abema de DAZN[1])
NHK General TV (selected matches)
NHK BS (selected matches)
YouTube (selected matches and markets)
Websitejleague.jp
Current: 2024 J1 League

History

Phases of J1

Before the professional league (1992 and earlier)

Before the inception of the J.League, the highest level of club football was the Japan Soccer League (JSL), which was formed in 1965 and consisted of amateur clubs.[11][12] 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, 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 and became the former Japan Football League, 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)

J.League officially kicked off its first season with ten clubs in early 1993.

After the boom (1996–1999)

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. Notably, Arsène Wenger managed Nagoya Grampus Eight during this period.

Change of infrastructure and game formats (1999–2004)

The league's management finally 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, 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 relationship with their hometowns at the grass-root level. The league believed that this will allow the clubs to bond with their respective cities and towns and get support from local government, companies, and citizens. In other words, clubs will 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 former second-tier Japan Football League now became the 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 champions from each half played a two-legged series to determine the overall season winners 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)

Since the 2005 season, J.League Division 1 consisted of 18 clubs (from 16 in 2004) and the season format became more similar to European club football. The number of relegated clubs also increased from 2 to 2.5, with the 3rd-to-last club going into a promotion/relegation playoff with the third-placed J2 club. Since then, other than minor adjustments, the top flight has stayed consistent.

Japanese teams did not treat the AFC Champions League seriously in the early years, in part due to the distances travelled and teams involved. However, in the 2008 Champions League, three Japanese sides made the quarter-finals.[13]

However, in recent years, with the inclusion of the A-League in Eastern Asia, introduction to the 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 Asian Champions League during the 2007 season.[14] 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 from the 2008 season, the 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 (2009–2016)

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, in 2012 the J.League Club Licence became one criterion of whether a club was permitted to be promoted to a higher tier in professional level leagues. No major changes happened to J.League Division 1 as the number of clubs stayed at 18.

In 2015 the J.League Division 1 was renamed J1 League. Also, the tournament format was changed to a three-stage system. The season was split into first and second stages, followed by a third and final championship stage. The third stage was composed of three to five teams. The top point accumulator in each stage and the top three point accumulators for the overall season qualified. If both of the stage winners finished in the top three teams for the season, then only three teams qualified for the championship stage. These teams then took part in a championship playoff stage to decide the winner of the league trophy.

Current (2017–)

Despite the new multi-stage format being initially reported as locked in for five seasons, due to negative reaction from hardcore fans and failure to appeal to casual fans, after 2016 it was abandoned in favour of a return to a single-stage system.[15] From 2017, the team which accumulates the most points will be named champion, with no championship stage taking place at the season's end, and from 2018, the bottom two clubs are relegated and the 16th-placed club enters a playoff with the J2 club that wins a promotion playoff series.[16] If the J2 playoff winner prevails, the club is promoted, with the J1 club being relegated, otherwise the J1 club can retain its position in J1 League with the promotion failure of the J2 club.

In November 2017, Urawa Red Diamonds played the AFC Champions League final against Al Hilal. After a draw in the first leg, Urawa Red Diamonds won the second leg 1-0 and were crowned Asian Champions. In the past 10–15 years, Japanese clubs have risen not only continentally, but also internationally. Clubs Gamba Osaka and Urawa Red Diamonds have been crowned Asian champions and participated in the Club World Cup, always targeting at least the semi-finals. Kashima Antlers were finalists of the 2016 edition and eventually lost to Real Madrid.

Beginning in 2026/27, the J.League will use a fall–spring format. The regular season will begin in August and pause for a winter break between December and February, with the final matches played in May.[17]

Timeline

Year Important events No. J clubs No. ACLE clubs No. ACL2 clubs Rel. slots
1989
  • JFA forms a professional league assessment committee.
1990
  • The committee decides the criteria for professional clubs
  • Fifteen to twenty clubs from Japan Soccer League applies for the professional league membership
1992
1993
  • The J.League officially kicks off its first season
10
1994 12
1995
  • 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 pt for PK loss, and 0 pts for regulation or extra time loss.
14
1996
  • 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
16
1997
  • 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 a regulation win, 2 pts for extra-time win, 1 pt for PK win, and 0 pts for any loss.
17
1998
  • 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.
18
1999
  • 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
2001
2002 2
2003
  • Extra time is abolished in Division 1 and traditional 3–1–0 points system is adopted
2004
  • 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
0.5
2005
  • J.League Division 1 expands to 18 clubs
  • J.League Division 1 adopts single-season format
18 2.5
2006
2007
Note: If a Japanese club wins the AFC Champions League, the host loses its right.
2008 2+1
2009
  • 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.
4 3
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
  • J.League reinstates split-season format for the next five seasons.
  • J.League champion qualifies to the FIFA Club World Cup as the host for the next two seasons again.
2016
  • J.League champion qualifies to the FIFA Club World Cup as the host.
  • Kashima Antlers reaches the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup Final becoming the first Asian club and only Japanese club to reach the Final, finishing with the silver medal.
2017
  • J.League reinstates single-season format after only two seasons.
  • Urawa Red Diamonds wins the 2017 AFC Champions League becoming the first Japanese club to win this competition twice.
2018
  • J.League implements entry playoff between 16th J1 club and J2 playoffs winner.
  • Kashima Antlers wins the 2018 AFC Champions League becoming only the third Japanese club to win this competition. Kashima goes on to finish 4th at 2018 FIFA Club World Cup, the best performance by a Japanese club in a FIFA World Cup held overseas outside of Japanese soil.
2.5
2019
  • J.League implements a new foreigners rule. J1, J2 and J3 clubs can recruit as many foreign players as they desire, but only 5 (J1) or 4 (J2 and J3) can be in the matchday squad. The "Asian slot" is removed. Players from certain J.League partner nations such as Thailand, Vietnam, etc. are not counted as foreigners.
2020 3 0
2021
  • League is expanded to hold 20 clubs, as no team was relegated from the J1 and two teams were promoted from the J2
20 4
2022
  • League returns to have 18 clubs, as there were four relegated teams from J1 and two promoted to J2.
18 2.5
2023
  • It is decided that from the 2024 season, the J1, J2 and J3 Leagues will be levelled to 20 clubs in each, with promotions and relegations of the 2023 season of each league being adjusted accordingly for it to be possible.
  • As league will be expanded to permanently hold 20 clubs, only one team will be directly relegated to the J2 for 2023.
  • There will be promotion play-offs for the J1 with teams from 3rd to 6th place, with no team from the J1 participating on it.
1
2024
  • No J1-J2 promotion/relegation play-offs will be held and instead, the three worst-placed teams will be directly relegated to the J2.
20 2 1 3

Crest

2024 season

League format

Twenty clubs play in double round-robin (home and away) format, a total of 38 games each. A club receives 3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie, and 0 points for a loss. The clubs are ranked by points, and tiebreakers are, in the following order:

  • Goal differential
  • Goals scored
  • Head-to-head results
  • Disciplinary points

A draw would be conducted, if necessary. However, if two clubs are tied for first place, both clubs will be declared as co-champions. The top two clubs will qualify to the following season's AFC Champions League Elite, the third-placers qualify to the following season's AFC Champions League 2, while the bottom three clubs will be relegated to J2.

Prize money (2020 figures)[18]
  • Champions: 300,000,000 yen
  • Second place: 120,000,000 yen
  • Third place: 60,000,000 yen

In addition to the prize, the top 4 clubs are awarded with the following funds.

J league funds distributed to top 4 clubs (from 2017)
  • Champions: 1,550,000,000 yen
  • Second place: 700,000,000 yen
  • Third place: 350,000,000 yen
  • Fourth place: 180,000,000 yen

Participating clubs

Club Year
joined
Seasons
in J1
Based in First season in
top flight
Seasons in
top flight
Current spell in
top flight
Last title
Albirex Niigata 1999 (J2) 15 Niigata, Niigata 2004 15 2023–
Avispa Fukuoka 1996 11 Fukuoka, Fukuoka 1996 11 2021–
Cerezo Osaka 1995 21 Osaka & Sakai, Osaka 1965 47 2017– 1980
Gamba Osaka 1993 29 North cities in Osaka 1986/87 36 2014– 2014
Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 1998 11 All cities/towns in Hokkaidō 1989/90 14 2017–
Júbilo Iwata 1994 25 Iwata, Shizuoka 1979 34 2024– 2002
Kashima Antlers 1993 30 Southwestern cities/towns of Ibaraki 1985/86 33 1993– 2016
Kashiwa Reysol 1995 25 Kashiwa, Chiba 1965 49 2020– 2011
Kawasaki Frontale 1999 (J2) 19 Kawasaki, Kanagawa 1977 21 2005– 2021
Kyoto Sanga 1996 12 Southwestern cities/towns in Kyoto 1996 12 2022–
Machida Zelvia 2012 (J2) 0 Machida, Tokyo 2024 0 2024–
Nagoya Grampus 1993 29 All cities/towns in Aichi 1973 37 2018– 2010
Sagan Tosu 1999 (J2) 11 Tosu, Saga 2012 11 2012–
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1993 27 Hiroshima, Hiroshima 1965 50 2009– 2015
Shonan Bellmare 1994 14 South and central cities/town in Kanagawa 1972 32 2018– 1981
FC Tokyo 1999 (J2) 22 Chōfu 2000 22 2012–
Tokyo Verdy 1993 14 Tokyo 1978 28 2024– 1994
Urawa Red Diamonds 1993 29 Saitama 1965 55 2001– 2006
Vissel Kobe 1997 24 Kobe, Hyōgo 1997 24 2014– 2023
Yokohama F. Marinos 1993 30 Yokohama, Yokosuka & Yamato 1979 42 1982– 2022

Source for teams participating:[19]

  • Pink background denotes club was most recently promoted from J2 League.
  • "Year joined" is the year the club joined the J.League (Division 1 unless otherwise indicated).
  • "First season in top flight", "Seasons in top flight", "Current spell in top flight", and "Last title" include seasons in the old Japan Soccer League First Division.

Stadiums (2024)

Primary venues used in the J1 League:

Albirex Niigata Avispa Fukuoka Cerezo Osaka Gamba Osaka Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo Jubilo Iwata
Denka Big Swan Stadium Best Denki Stadium Yanmar Stadium Nagai Yodoko Sakura Stadium Panasonic Stadium Suita Sapporo Dome Sapporo Atsubetsu Stadium Yamaha Stadium
Capacity: 42,300 Capacity: 21,562 Capacity: 47,816 Capacity: 19,904 Capacity: 41,484 Capacity: 40,000 Capacity: 20,861 Capacity: 18,500
               
Kashima Antlers Kashiwa Reysol Kawasaki Frontale Kyoto Sanga FC Machida Zelvia Nagoya Grampus Sagan Tosu
Kashima Soccer Stadium Sankyo Frontier Kashiwa Stadium Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium Sanga Stadium by Kyocera Machida Gion Stadium Paloma Mizuho Stadium Toyota Stadium Ekimae Real Estate Stadium
Capacity: 40,728 Capacity: 15,349 Capacity: 26,000 Capacity: 21,600 Capacity: 10,600 Capacity: 27,000 Capacity: 45,000 Capacity: 24,490
               
Sanfrecce Hiroshima Shonan Bellmare FC Tokyo Tokyo Verdy Urawa Red Diamonds Vissel Kobe Yokohama F. Marinos All J1 Stadiums
Edion Peace Wing Hiroshima Lemon Gas Stadium Hiratsuka Ajinomoto Stadium Saitama Stadium 2002 Noevir Stadium Kobe Nissan Stadium
Capacity: 28,520 Capacity: 15,200 Capacity: 63,700 Capacity: 30,132 Capacity: 72,370 Capacity: 50,100
           

Former clubs

Club Year
Joined
Seasons
in J1
Based in First season in
top flight
Seasons in
top flight
Last spell in
top flight
Last
title
Current
league
JEF United Chiba 1993 17 Chiba & Ichihara, Chiba 1965 44 1965–2009 1985/86 J2
Matsumoto Yamaga 2012 (J2) 2 Central cities/village in Nagano 2015 2 2019 J3
Montedio Yamagata 1999 (J2) 4 All cities/towns in Yamagata 2009 4 2015 J2
Oita Trinita 1999 (J2) 11 All cities/towns in Ōita 2003 11 2019–2021 J2
Omiya Ardija 1999 (J2) 12 Saitama 2005 12 2016–2017 J3
Shimizu S-Pulse 1993 28 Shizuoka 1993 28 2017–2022 J2
Tokushima Vortis 2005 (J2) 2 All cities/towns in Tokushima 2014 2 2021 J2
V-Varen Nagasaki 2013 (J2) 1 All cities/towns in Nagasaki 2018 1 2018 J2
Vegalta Sendai 1999 (J2) 14 Sendai, Miyagi 2002 14 2010–2021 J2
Ventforet Kofu 1999 (J2) 8 All cities/towns in Yamanashi 2006 8 2013–2017 J2
Yokohama FC 1999 (J2) 4 Yokohama 2007 4 2023 J2
Yokohama Flügels 1993 6 Yokohama, Kanagawa 1985/86 11 1988/89–1998 Defunct
  • Grey background denotes club was most recently relegated to J2 League.
  • "Year joined" is the year the club joined the J.League (Division 1 unless otherwise indicated).
  • "First season in top flight", "Seasons in top flight", "Last spell in top flight", and "Last title" includes seasons in the old Japan Soccer League First Division.

Statistics

All-time J1 League table

The all-time J1 League table is a cumulative record of all match results, points, and goals of every team that has played in the J1 League. The table that follows is accurate as of the end of the 2022 season. Teams in bold are part of the 2023 J1 League.

Note: For statistical purposes, the traditional 3–1–0 points system is used for all matches. As in the season, 1993–1994 did not use the point system. In seasons 1995–1996 were using 3 pts for any win, 1 pt for PK loss, and 0 pts for regulation or extra time loss. In seasons 1997-1998 were using 3 pts for a regulation win, 2 pts for extra-time win, 1 pt for PK win, and 0 pts for any loss. And from seasons 1999–2002 were using 3 pts for a regulation win, 2 pts for an extra time win, and 1 pt for a tie.

Pos. Club Seasons Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts Best
Pos.
1 Kashima Antlers 30 1024 561 155 308 1,749 1,211 +538 1,838 1st
2 Yokohama F. Marinos 30 1024 508 180 336 1,643 1,233 +410 1,704 1st
3 Urawa Red Diamonds 29 994 457 174 363 1,526 1,319 +207 1,545 1st
4 Nagoya Grampus 29 990 448 162 380 1,475 1,370 +105 1,506 1st
5 Gamba Osaka 29 990 445 155 390 1,640 1,459 +181 1,490 1st
6 Shimizu S-Pulse 29 990 421 167 402 1,415 1,459 −44 1,430 2nd
7 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 28 960 411 165 384 1,390 1,279 +111 1,398 1st
8 Júbilo Iwata 25 848 391 142 315 1,374 1,170 +204 1,315 1st
9 Kashiwa Reysol 25 842 363 144 335 1,261 1,217 +44 1,233 1st
10 Kawasaki Frontale 19 646 340 134 172 1,193 813 +380 1,154 1st
11 FC Tokyo 22 732 307 157 268 1,007 934 +73 1,078 2nd
12 Cerezo Osaka 22 744 306 133 305 1,117 1,120 −3 1,051 3rd
13 Vissel Kobe 24 794 266 163 365 1,056 1,250 −194 961 3rd
14 JEF United Chiba 17 578 227 70 281 874 980 −106 751 3rd
15 Tokyo Verdy 14 476 226 43 207 767 713 +54 721 1st
16 Albirex Niigata 14 472 156 115 201 557 679 −122 583 6th
17 Shonan Bellmare 15 532 166 83 283 663 908 –245 581 5th
18 Vegalta Sendai 14 472 144 122 206 561 686 −125 554 2nd
19 Sagan Tosu 11 378 133 107 138 443 479 −36 506 5th
20 Omiya Ardija 12 408 129 104 175 455 579 −124 491 5th
21 Oita Trinita 11 370 108 88 174 387 512 −125 412 4th
22 Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 11 370 110 68 192 472 653 −181 398 4th
23 Kyoto Sanga 12 352 112 53 221 428 678 −250 389 5th
24 Yokohama Flügels 6 228 117 0 111 375 373 +2 351 3rd
25 Avispa Fukuoka 11 360 94 51 215 384 642 –258 333 8th
26 Ventforet Kofu 8 272 69 73 130 255 404 –149 280 13th
27 Montedio Yamagata 4 136 30 36 70 108 199 −91 126 13th
28 Yokohama FC 3 106 19 19 68 89 203 −114 76 15th
29 Matsumoto Yamaga 2 68 13 20 35 51 94 −43 59 16th
30 Tokushima Vortis 2 72 13 11 48 50 129 –79 50 17th
31 V-Varen Nagasaki 1 34 8 6 20 39 59 −20 30 18th

League or status at 2023:

2023 J1 League teams
2023 J2 League teams
2023 J3 League teams
Defunct teams

Championship history

Year Champions Runners-up
Verdy Kawasaki Kashima Antlers
Verdy Kawasaki Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Yokohama Marinos Verdy Kawasaki
Kashima Antlers Nagoya Grampus Eight
Júbilo Iwata Kashima Antlers
Kashima Antlers Júbilo Iwata
Júbilo Iwata Shimizu S-Pulse
Kashima Antlers Yokohama F. Marinos
Kashima Antlers Júbilo Iwata
Júbilo Iwata Yokohama F. Marinos
Yokohama F. Marinos Júbilo Iwata
Yokohama F. Marinos Urawa Red Diamonds
Gamba Osaka Urawa Red Diamonds
Urawa Red Diamonds Kawasaki Frontale
Kashima Antlers Urawa Red Diamonds
Kashima Antlers Kawasaki Frontale
Kashima Antlers Kawasaki Frontale
Nagoya Grampus Gamba Osaka
Kashiwa Reysol Nagoya Grampus
Sanfrecce Hiroshima Vegalta Sendai
Sanfrecce Hiroshima Yokohama F. Marinos
Gamba Osaka Urawa Red Diamonds
Sanfrecce Hiroshima Gamba Osaka
Kashima Antlers Urawa Red Diamonds
Kawasaki Frontale Kashima Antlers
Kawasaki Frontale Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Yokohama F. Marinos FC Tokyo
Kawasaki Frontale Gamba Osaka
Kawasaki Frontale Yokohama F. Marinos
Yokohama F. Marinos Kawasaki Frontale
Vissel Kobe Yokohama F. Marinos

Most successful clubs

Clubs in bold compete in top flight for the 2023 season.

Club Champions Runners-up Winning seasons Runners-up seasons
Kashima Antlers
8
3
1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2016 1993, 1997, 2017
Yokohama F. Marinos
5
5
1995, 2003, 2004, 2019, 2022 2000, 2002, 2013, 2021, 2023
Kawasaki Frontale
4
4
2017, 2018, 2020, 2021 2006, 2008, 2009, 2022
Júbilo Iwata
3
3
1997, 1999, 2002 1998, 2001, 2003
Sanfrecce Hiroshima
3
2
2012, 2013, 2015 1994, 2018
Gamba Osaka
2
3
2005, 2014 2010, 2015, 2020
Tokyo Verdy
2
1
1993, 1994 1995
Urawa Red Diamonds
1
5
2006 2004, 2005, 2007, 2014, 2016
Nagoya Grampus
1
2
2010 1996, 2011
Kashiwa Reysol
1
0
2011
Vissel Kobe
1
0
2023
Shimizu S-Pulse
0
1
1999
Vegalta Sendai
0
1
2012
FC Tokyo
0
1
2019

Relegation history

Only four clubs have never been relegated from J1. Among those, only two clubs – Kashima Antlers and Yokohama F. Marinos – have participated in every league season since its establishment in 1993. Sagan Tosu were promoted to the first division in 2012, and remain there ever since. The former J.League club Yokohama Flügels never experienced relegation before their merger with Yokohama Marinos in 1999.

JEF United Chiba holds the record for the longest top flight participation streak of 44 consecutive seasons in the first divisions of JSL and J.League that lasted from the establishment of JFL in 1965 and ended with their relegation in 2009. The longest ongoing top flight streak belongs to Yokohama F. Marinos who have played in the top flight since 1982 (43 seasons as of 2023).

The 1998 season

When the league introduced the two-division system in 1999, they also reduced number of Division 1 clubs from 18 to 16. At the end of 1998 season, they ran the J.League Promotion Tournament to determine the two relegated clubs.

Split-season era (1999–2004, 2015–2016)

Throughout 1999 to 2003 seasons, the two bottom clubs were relegated to Division 2. To accommodate the split-season format, combined overall standings were used to determine the relegated clubs. This created a confusing situation, where for the championship race stage standings were used, while overall standing was used for relegation survival.

At end of the 2004 season, Division 1 again expanded from 16 to 18 clubs. No clubs were relegated; however, the last-placed (16th) club had to play the Promotion/Relegation Series against the 3rd placed club from J2. Again, to determine the 16th placed club, the overall standing was used instead of stage standings.

For two seasons starting in 2015, the three bottom clubs were relegated based on overall standings.

Single season era (2005–2014, 2017–2019, 2022–present)

For the next four seasons, 2005 to 2008, the number of relegating clubs was increased to 2.5, with two clubs from each division being promoted and relegated directly, and two more (15th in J1 and 3rd in J2) competing in the Promotion/Relegation Series.

In 2009, the promotion/relegation series was abandoned and three teams were directly exchanged between divisions. In 2012, promotion playoffs were introduced in J2, allowing teams that finished from 3rd to 6th to compete for the last J1 promotion place. For the 2018, 2019 and 2022 seasons, the bottom two teams are relegated and the entry playoff has the 16th team play the J2 playoff winner.

Single season era (2021)

No teams descended to J2 after the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan and its effects.[20] Instead, four relegations were in place for the 2021 season to bring back the number of teams from 20 to 18.[21]

Summary
Year 15th place 16th place 17th place 18th place 19th place 20th place
1998 JEF United Ichihara Consadole Sapporo Vissel Kobe Avispa Fukuoka Only 18 clubs participated
1999 Urawa Red Diamonds Bellmare Hiratsuka Only 16 clubs participated
2000 Kyoto Purple Sanga Kawasaki Frontale
2001 Avispa Fukuoka Cerezo Osaka
2002 Sanfrecce Hiroshima Consadole Sapporo
2003 Vegalta Sendai Kyoto Purple Sanga
2004 Cerezo Osaka Kashiwa Reysol
2005 Shimizu S-Pulse Kashiwa Reysol Tokyo Verdy 1969 Vissel Kobe Only 18 clubs participated
2006 Ventforet Kofu Avispa Fukuoka Cerezo Osaka Kyoto Purple Sanga
2007 Omiya Ardija Sanfrecce Hiroshima Ventforet Kofu Yokohama FC
2008 JEF United Chiba Júbilo Iwata Tokyo Verdy Consadole Sapporo
2009 Montedio Yamagata Kashiwa Reysol Oita Trinita JEF United Chiba
2010 Vissel Kobe FC Tokyo Kyoto Sanga Shonan Bellmare
2011 Urawa Red Diamonds Ventforet Kofu Avispa Fukuoka Montedio Yamagata
2012 Albirex Niigata Vissel Kobe Gamba Osaka Consadole Sapporo
2013 Ventforet Kofu Shonan Bellmare Júbilo Iwata Oita Trinita
2014 Shimizu S-Pulse Omiya Ardija Cerezo Osaka Tokushima Vortis
2015 Albirex Niigata Matsumoto Yamaga Shimizu S-Pulse Montedio Yamagata
2016 Albirex Niigata Nagoya Grampus Shonan Bellmare Avispa Fukuoka
2017 Sanfrecce Hiroshima Ventforet Kofu Albirex Niigata Omiya Ardija
2018 Nagoya Grampus Júbilo Iwata Kashiwa Reysol V-Varen Nagasaki
2019 Sagan Tosu Shonan Bellmare Matsumoto Yamaga Júbilo Iwata
2020 Yokohama FC Shimizu S-Pulse Vegalta Sendai Shonan Bellmare
2021 Kashiwa Reysol Shonan Bellmare Tokushima Vortis Oita Trinita Vegalta Sendai Yokohama FC
2022 Gamba Osaka Kyoto Sanga Shimizu S-Pulse Júbilo Iwata Only 18 clubs participated
2023 Shonan Bellmare Gamba Osaka Kashiwa Reysol Yokohama FC
2024

* Bold designates relegated clubs;
† Won the Pro/rele Series or entry playoff;
‡ Lost the Pro/rele Series or entry playoff and relegated

Other tournaments

Domestic tournaments
International tournaments
Defunct tournament

Players and managers

Players

Managers

Media coverage

Japan

DAZN brought exclusive digital broadcasting rights for the entire J.League matches (including J1 League itself) until 2033.[22] The league was also available to stream on Abema through Abema de DAZN subscription plan.[1]

Linear broadcast for 2024 season was limited to selected matches aired on NHK General TV and NHK BS, in addition to some regional network based on their team regions (such as SBS Shizuoka, Saga TV, Sapporo TV, TSS, NST, etc.)

Outside Japan

Selected matches are livestreamed globally (excluding the following regions) via J.League International YouTube channel.[23]

Country/region Broadcaster[24]
  Australia Optus Sport[25]
  Austria Sportdigital
  Germany
  Switzerland
  China K-Ball[a]
Indian subcontinent Fancode
  Indonesia PSJ TV
  Macau TDM
  Nigeria Sporty TV
  Thailand Siam Sport (via AIS Play), PPTV HD

Sponsorship

Title Partner

Official Broadcasting Partner

Top Partners

League Cup Partner

Super Cup Partner

Equipment Partner

Sports Promotion Partner

Ticketing Partner

EC Platform Partner

Technology Partner

Supporting Companies

See also

Association football
League system
Domestic cup
Futsal
Beach soccer

Notes

  1. ^ Including J2 League

References

  1. ^ a b "ABEMA Launches "ABEMA de DAZN" to Deliver Even More Sports Content from February". CyberAgent (Press release). February 16, 2024. Archived from the original on February 22, 2024. Retrieved February 23, 2024.
  2. ^ The logo used in Japan is labeled 「明治安田 J1 LEAGUE」.
  3. ^ 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」。
  4. ^ "J-League History Part 5: Expansion, success, and a bright future". Goal.com. 9 September 2013. Archived from the original on 1 April 2019. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  5. ^ "J-League History Part 4: Exporting Talent". Goal.com. 9 September 2013. Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  6. ^ "J-League History Part 3: Growing pains emerge on the road to the 2002 World Cup". Goal.com. 9 September 2013. Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  7. ^ "J-League History Part 2: Verdy Kawasaki dominates the early years". Goal.com. 9 September 2013. Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  8. ^ "J-League History Part 1: Professional football begins in Japan". Goal.com. 9 September 2013. Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  9. ^ "Tokyo Journal; Japan Falls for Soccer, Leaving Baseball in Lurch". The New York Times. 6 June 1994. Archived from the original on 7 August 2019. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  10. ^ "Japan Wages Soccer Campaign". Christian Science Monitor. 11 June 1993. Archived from the original on 7 August 2019. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  11. ^ "Football finds a home in Japan". FIFA. 12 December 2005. Archived from the original on December 13, 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  12. ^ "How Japan created a successful league". When Saturday Comes. 18 July 2010. Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  13. ^ John Duerden (11 August 2008). "Asian Debate: Is Japan Becoming Asia's Leader?". Goal.com. Archived from the original on 21 January 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
  14. ^ 川崎Fが香港でブレーク中、生中継で火 (in Japanese). NikkanSports. 8 March 2008. Archived from the original on 12 March 2008. Retrieved 8 March 2008.
  15. ^ Duerden, John. "J.League seeks to wrestle back spotlight from Chinese Super League". ESPN FC. ESPN. Archived from the original on 20 December 2017. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  16. ^ "2018J1参入プレーオフ 大会方式および試合方式について". J.League. 12 December 2017. Archived from the original on 15 December 2020. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  17. ^ "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.
  18. ^ "J. League reveals breakdown of prize money, funds". The Japan Times. 9 February 2017. Archived from the original on 5 August 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
  19. ^ "J1 League: Summary". Soccerway. Global Sports Media. Retrieved 6 December 2021.
  20. ^ Orlowitz, Dan (19 March 2020). "J. League to skip relegation as schedule threatened by coronavirus". The Japan Times. Archived from the original on 21 January 2021. Retrieved 2 January 2021.
  21. ^ "Number of clubs promoted and relegated at the end of the 2021 season" (Press release). J.League. 18 November 2020. Archived from the original on 16 December 2020. Retrieved 2 January 2021.
  22. ^ "DAZN and J.LEAGUE extend Japanese broadcasting rights contract until 2033". DAZN (Press release). Archived from the original on February 14, 2024. Retrieved February 14, 2024.
  23. ^ "Overseas Broadcasting of the 2024 MEIJI YASUDA J.LEAGUE". J League. February 23, 2024. Archived from the original on February 23, 2024. Retrieved February 23, 2024.
  24. ^ "Broadcaster". J League. Archived from the original on February 14, 2024. Retrieved February 23, 2024.
  25. ^ "Optus Sport Welcomes J-League to Our 2020 Line Up". Optus Sport. Archived from the original on 26 February 2020. Retrieved 11 February 2020.

External links