Japan Football League
The Japan Football League, (Japanese: 日本フットボールリーグ, Hepburn: Nihon Futtobōru Rīgu) also known as simply the JFL is the 4th tier of the Japanese association football league system, positioned beneath the three divisions of the J.League. The league features fully professional teams that hold J.League associate membership among its ranks.
|Number of teams||16|
|Level on pyramid||4|
|Promotion to||J3 League|
|Relegation to||Japanese Regional Leagues|
|Domestic cup(s)||Emperor's Cup|
|Current champions||Verspah Oita |
|Most championships||Honda FC|
|Current: 2021 Japan Football League|
Relationship and position of J. League and Japan Football League (JFL)Edit
According to the official document published in December 2013 when the J3 League was established, the J3 League was the 3rd level of the J.League. The J.League and non-J.League amateur leagues have different hierarchical structures, and the J3 League was ranked on the same level as the JFL. In addition, the JFL itself has the same recognition in the material showing the league composition on the official website. Therefore, the JFL is treated as equal to J3 in theory, but in practice it is considered equivalent to a 4th division.
The Japan Football League started from the 1999 season when the second division of J.League (J2) was also born. Until then, J.League consisted of only one division and the former JFL was the second highest division. Out of 16 teams who played the last season of the former JFL, 9 decided and were accepted to play in J2 and the other 7 teams as well as Yokogawa Electric, the winners of the Regional League Promotion Series, formed the new Japan Football League. These 8 teams together with Yokohama FC that was allowed to participate as a special case after the merger of Yokohama Flügels and Yokohama Marinos competed in the inaugural 1999 season.
The 9 teams that competed in the first season were as follows: Denso SC, Honda Motors, Jatco SC, Kokushikan University F.C., Mito HollyHock, Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, Sony Sendai, Yokohama FC and Yokogawa Electric.
In the second season the number of clubs was increased from 9 to 12, reaching 16 in 2001. In 2002 it was briefly 18 clubs before going back to 16 the next season and settling for good at 18 in 2006. For the 2012 season it had 17 clubs due to the late withdrawal of Arte Takasaki.
The league suffered another contraction after 2013 season, as 10 of its 18 teams joined the newly created J3 League. It also moved a tier down the pyramid, making it fourth-tier league since 2014.
JFL clubs may be affiliated to companies, or be entirely autonomous clubs or reserve teams of these. Until 2010, university clubs (which as a rule do not play in the Japanese football league system) were recommended by the Japan University Football Association and played off against bottom JFL teams for entrance. B-teams are allowed to participate but only A-squads of truly autonomous clubs are eligible for J.League Associate Membership, and with it, promotion to J.League.
Promotion from JFLEdit
A club that satisfies the following criteria will be promoted to J.League Div. 2 (for the 2012 and 2013 seasons):
- Have J.League Associate Membership
- Finish the season in the top two in JFL
- If only the champion is an Associate Member, it will be automatically promoted.
- If both the champion and runner-up are Associate Members, the champion will be automatically promoted and the runner-up will play a Promotion/Relegation Series against the second-to-last club in the J2.
- If only the runner-up is an Associate Member, it will play the Promotion/Relegation Series against the last club in the J2.
- Pass the final inspection by the J.League Committee
With the establishment of the J3 League in the 2014 season, the top 2 requirements are no longer necessary should a team that is approved by J.League Committee and is a J.League Associate Member. However, they start in the J3 instead. The JFL is the highest tier of amateur level football in Japan again, but they still serve the purpose of helping potential J.League clubs to participate in the J3.
Relegation from JFLEdit
Up to two teams at the bottom of the league may face a direct relegation or relegation/promotion play-off against the teams finishing at the top of the Regional League promotion competition. The number of the teams who need to compete in the play-off varies depending on the number of the teams that are promoted to J3 or withdrawn from the JFL.
Emperor's Cup eligibilityEdit
Until 2008, only the club at the top of the standings at half-season (17 matches completed) was qualified for the Emperor's Cup, entering it at the third round along with the clubs in J2, but the allotment was widened to the top three clubs in 2010 due to the expansion of J2. Every other club must qualify through a qualifying cup in their own prefecture and then must enter at the first round. In 2015, only the winner of the apertura (first half) qualified.
In 1999 (Bangabandhu Cup) and since 2014, a JFL XI team has played off-season matches against guest teams. The 2016 season also featured an JFL East vs JFL West all-star encounter.
The league follows a one-stage double round-robin, wherein the team finishing at the top of the table following the season is declared the champion. From 2014 to 2018 it used the Apertura and Clausura system, with two winners of each stage contesting the championship in the playoff. From 2019 it used the single table with double round-robin system to 30 matches.
|Club Name||First Season
|Home Town(s)||Current Spell
|Honda FC||1999||22||Hamamatsu, Shizuoka||1999–||2019||No|
|Iwaki FC||2020||1||Iwaki, Fukushima||2020–||–||Yes|
|FC Kariya||1999||11||Kariya, Aichi||2021–||–||Yes|
|Honda Lock||2005||14||Miyazaki, Miyazaki||2009–||–||No|
|Maruyasu Okazaki||2014||7||Okazaki, Aichi||2014–||–||No|
|Matsue City FC||2019||2||Matsue, Shimane||2019–||-||Yes|
|MIO Biwako Shiga||2008||13||Kusatsu, Shiga||2008–||–||Yes|
|Nara Club||2015||6||Nara, Nara||2015–||–||Yes|
|FC Osaka||2015||6||Higashiosaka, Osaka||2015–||–||Yes|
|Kochi United SC||2020||1||Kochi, Kochi||2020-||–||Yes|
|ReinMeer Aomori||2016||5||Aomori, Aomori||2016–||–||Yes|
|Sony Sendai||1999||22||Miyagi Prefecture||1999–||2015||No|
|Suzuka Point Getters||2019||2||Suzuka, Mie||2019–||–||Yes|
|FC Tiamo Hirakata||2021||0||Hirakata, Osaka||2021–||–||Yes|
|Tokyo Musashino City||1999||22||Musashino, Tokyo||1999–||–||Yes|
|Veertien Mie||2017||4||Kuwana, Mie||2017–||–||Yes|
|Verspah Oita||2012||9||Ōita, Ōita||2012–||2020||No|
- Pink background denotes clubs that were most recently promoted from Japanese Regional Leagues through the Regional League promotion tournament.
- "Qualifiable base for J.League" indicates the club has the basic prerequisites for 100 Year Plan status. Clubs who actually hold the status are denoted in bold.
|Club Name||First Season
|Home Town(s)||Last Spell
|ALO's Hokuriku||2000||8||Toyama, Toyama||2000–2007||–||Defunct, merged into Kataller Toyama|
|Arte Takasaki||2004||8||Takasaki, Gunma||2004–2011||–||Defunct|
|Azul Claro Numazu||2014||3||Numazu, Shizuoka||2014–2016||–||J3|
|Kyoto BAMB 1993||2000||4||Kyoto, Kyoto||2000–2004||–||Kansai League D1|
|Blaublitz Akita||2007||7||All cities/towns in Akita||2007–2013||–||J2|
|Briobecca Urayasu||2016||2||Urayasu, Chiba||2016–2017||–||Kantō League D1|
|Cobaltore Onagawa||2018||1||Onagawa, Miyagi||2018||–||Tohoku League D1|
|Ehime FC||2001||5||All cities/towns in Ehime||2001–2005||2005||J2|
|Fagiano Okayama||2008||1||All cities/towns in Okayama||2008||–||J2|
|Fagiano Okayama Next||2014||3||Okayama, Okayama||2014–2016||–||Defunct|
|Fukushima United||2013||1||Fukushima, Fukushima||2013||–||J3|
|Gainare Tottori||2001||10||All cities/towns in Tottori||2001–2010||2010||J3|
|FC Gifu||2007||1||All cities/towns in Gifu||2007||–||J3|
|Mito HollyHock||1999||1||Mito, Ibaraki||1999||–||J2|
|FC Imabari||2017||3||Imabari, Ehime||2017–2019||–||J3|
|Jatco SC||1999||5||Numazu, Shizuoka||1999–2003||–||Defunct|
|JEF Reserves||2006||6||Ichihara, Chiba||2006–2011||–||Defunct|
|Kagoshima United||2014||2||Kagoshima, Kagoshima||2014–2015||–||J3|
|Kamatamare Sanuki||2011||3||All cities/towns in Kagawa||2011–2013||–||J3|
|Kataller Toyama||2008||1||All cities/towns in Toyama||2008||–||J3|
|Kokushikan University||1999||6||Machida, Tokyo||1999–2003||–||Kantō University League|
|Mitsubishi Motors Mizushima||2005||5||Kurashiki, Okayama||2005–2009||–||Chugoku League|
|Fujieda MYFC||2012||2||Fujieda, Shizuoka||2012–2013||–||J3|
|New Wave Kitakyushu||2008||2||Kitakyushu, Fukuoka||2008–2009||–||J2|
|Otsuka Pharmaceuticals||1999||6||All cities/towns in Tokushima||1999–2004||2004||J1|
|Nagano Parceiro||2011||3||Nagano, Nagano||2011–2013||2013||J3|
|Profesor Miyazaki||2002||1||All cities/towns in Miyazaki||2002||–||Defunct|
|Rosso Kumamoto||2001||4||Kumamoto, Kumamoto||2006–2007||–||J3|
|Renofa Yamaguchi||2014||1||Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi||2014||–||J2|
|FC Ryukyu||2006||8||All cities/towns in Okinawa||2006–2013||–||J2|
|Ryutsu Keizai University||2005||6||Ryugasaki, Ibaraki||2005–2010||–||Kantō League D1|
|Ryutsu Keizai Dragons Ryugasaki||2015||5||Ryugasaki, Ibaraki||2015-2019||–||Kantō League D1|
|SC Sagamihara||2013||1||Sagamihara, Kanagawa||2013||–||J2|
|Sagawa Express Osaka||2002||5||Higashisumiyoshi-ku, Osaka||2002–2006||–||Defunct, merged into Sagawa Shiga|
|Sagawa Express Tokyo||2001||6||Kōtō, Tokyo||2001–2006||–||Defunct, merged into Sagawa Shiga|
|Sagawa Shiga||2007||6||Moriyama, Shiga||2007–2012||2011||Defunct|
|Shizuoka Sangyo University||2000||3||Iwata, Shizuoka||2000–2002||–||Tōkai University League|
|SP Kyoto FC||2003||13||Uji, Kyoto||2003–2015||–||Defunct|
|Tegevajaro Miyazaki||2018||3||Miyazaki, Miyazaki||2018–2020||–||J3|
|Thespa Kusatsu||2004||1||All cities/towns in Gunma||2004||–||J2|
|Tochigi SC||2000||9||Utsunomiya, Tochigi||2000–2008||–||J2|
|Tochigi Uva FC||2010||8||Tochigi, Tochigi||2010–2017||–||Kantō League D1|
|V-Varen Nagasaki||2009||4||All cities/towns in Nagasaki||2009–2012||2012||J2|
|Vanraure Hachinohe||2014||5||Hachinohe, Aomori||2014–2018||–||J3|
|Matsumoto Yamaga||2010||2||Matsumoto, Nagano||2010–2011||–||J2|
|YKK AP||2001||7||Kurobe, Toyama||2001–2007||–||Defunct, merged into Kataller Toyama|
|Yokohama FC||1999||2||Yokohama, Kanagawa||1999–2000||2000||J1|
|YSCC Yokohama||2012||2||Yokohama, Kanagawa||2012–2013||–||J3|
|Machida Zelvia||2009||4||Machida, Tokyo||2013||–||J2|
|Zweigen Kanazawa||2010||4||Kanazawa, Ishikawa||2010–2013||–||J2|
- Pink background denotes clubs that were most recently promoted to J3 League.
Championship, promotion and relegation historyEdit
Most successful clubsEdit
Clubs in bold compete in JFL as of 2021 season. Clubs in italic no longer exist.
|Club||Winners||Runners-up||Winning seasons||Runners-up seasons|
|Honda FC||2001, 2002, 2006, 2008,
2014, 2016, 2017, 2018,
|1999, 2000, 2003, 2004|
|Sagawa Shiga||2007, 2009, 2011||2010|
|Otsuka Pharmaceuticals||2003, 2004||2001|
|Yokohama FC||1999, 2000|
|Nagano Parceiro||2013||2011, 2012|
|Sagawa Express Tokyo||0||2||2002, 2006|
|Tokyo Musashino City||2009|
|SP Kyoto FC||2014|
|Ryutsu Keizai Dragons||2016|
Third-tier league: 1999–2013Edit
Fourth-tier league: 2014–Edit
From 2014 to 2018 the Japan Football League switched to the Apertura and Clausura format to determine the champions. In 2019 the single-table format returned.
|Season||Champions||Runners-up||Promoted to J3 after the season||Promoted from Regional Leagues before the season||Relegated to Regional Leagues after the season|
|2014||Honda FC (A)||SP Kyoto FC (C)||Renofa Yamaguchi||Fagiano Okayama Next
Azul Claro Numazu
Maruyasu Industries SC
|2015||Sony Sendai (C)||Vanraure Hachinohe (A)||Kagoshima United||Nara Club
Ryutsu Keizai Dragons
|SP Kyoto FC (disbanded)|
|2016||Honda FC (C)||Ryutsu Keizai Dragons (A)||Azul Claro Numazu||ReinMeer Aomori
|Fagiano Okayama Next (disbanded)|
|2017||Honda FC (1)||ReinMeer Aomori (2)||None||FC Imabari
|2018||Honda FC (1)||FC Osaka (2)||Vanraure Hachinohe||Cobaltore Onagawa
|2019||Honda FC||Sony Sendai||FC Imabari||Matsue City FC
|Ryutsu Keizai Dragons|
|2020†||Verspah Oita||Tegevajaro Miyazaki||Tegevajaro Miyazaki||Iwaki FC
Kochi United SC
|2021||FC Tiamo Hirakata
A = Apertura champion, C = Clausura champion, 1 = Won both stages, 2 = Earned the second most points total in the overall table if 1 applies.
† Only second half of season was played due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan.
JFL records and statisticsEdit
- As of Dec. 2020.
In bold the ones who are actually playing in JFL. In italic the ones who are still active in other league.
- "リーグ構成". Japan Football League. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
- Official website (in Japanese)
- JFL channel (in Japanese)
- Unofficial news site (in Japanese)
- 2010 JFL season (in English and French)
Japan Football League Division 2
| Third tier of Japanese football