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Japan Football League

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Title: Japan Football League  
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Subject: List of winners of J3 League and predecessors, Japanese Regional Leagues, All Japan Senior Football Championship, V-Varen Nagasaki, 2013 Emperor's Cup
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Japan Football League

For the league before 1998 (Japan Futtobōru Rīgu (ジャパンフットボールリーグ), referred to in this page as "the former JFL"), see Japan Football League (1992–1998).

The Japan Football League, (日本フットボールリーグ Nihon Futtobōru Rīgu) also known as simply the JFL is the 4th tier of the Japanese association football league system, positioned beneath three divisions of J. League, and the top tier of amateur football in the country. Despite its officially amateur status the league features fully professional teams that hold J. League associate membership among its ranks.


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 , the winners of the Regional Promotion Series, formed the new Japan Football League. These 8 teams together with that was allowed to participate as a special case after the merger of and competed in the inaugural 1999 season.

The 9 teams that competed in the first season were as follows: , , , Kokushikan University F.C., , , Sony Sendai, and .

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 will only have 17 clubs due to the late withdrawal of .

The league suffered another contraction after 2013 season, as 10 of its 18 teams have joined the newly created J3 League. It also moved the league a tier down the pyramid, making it fourth-tier league starting 2014.

Three former JFL clubs have competed in the top flight: Yokohama FC (2007), (2014, as Tokushima Vortis), and (2015).


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 JFL

In 2012 and 2013 season. A club that satisfies the following criteria will be promoted to J. League Div. 2.

  • 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 J2.
    • If only the runner-up is an Associate Member, it will play the Promotion/Relegation Series against the last club in J2.
  • Pass the final inspection by J. League Committee

As the establishment of J. league division 3 in 2014 season. The Top 2 requirement is no longer necessary should a team is approved by J. League Committee and is a J. League Associate Member. However, they'll start at J3 instead. The JFL will be the highest tier of amateur level football league in Japan again, through, they still serve the purpose of helping potential J.League participants to participate the J3.

Relegation from JFL

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 All Japan Regional Football Promotion League Series. 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 eligibility

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.

2015 season

Competition format

The league will follow the Apertura and Clausura system, with two winners of each stage contesting the championship in the playoff.

Participating clubs (2015)

Club Name First Season
in JFL
in JFL
Home Town(s) Current Spell
in JFL
Qualifiable base
for J. League
' 2014 2 Numazu, Shizuoka 2014—  — Yes
2014 2 Okayama, Okayama 2014—  — No
1999 17 Hamamatsu, Shizuoka 1999— 2014 No
' 2014 2 Kagoshima, Kagoshima 2014—  — Yes
2005 9 Miyazaki, Miyazaki 2009—  — No
2014 2 Okazaki, Aichi 2014—  — No
2008 8 Kusatsu, Shiga 2008—  — Yes
' 2015 1 Nara, Nara 2015—  — Yes
2015 1 All cities/towns in Osaka 2015—  — Yes
2003 13 Uji, Kyoto 2003—  — No
2015 1 Ryūgasaki, Ibaraki 2015—  — No
Sony Sendai 1999 17 Miyagi Prefecture 1999—  — No
' 2010 6 Tochigi, Tochigi 2010—  — Yes
' 2014 2 Hachinohe, Aomori 2014—  — Yes
2012 4 Ōita, Ōita 2012—  — No
1999 17 Musashino, Tokyo 1999—  — No

Former clubs

Club Name First Season
in JFL
in JFL
Home Town(s) Last Spell
in JFL
JFL title
Current League
2000 8 Toyama, Toyama 2000–2007  — Defunct, merged into Kataller Toyama
2004 8 Takasaki, Gunma 2004–2011  — Defunct
2000 4 Kyoto, Kyoto 2000–2004  — Kansai League D1
2007 7 All cities/towns in Akita 2007–2013  — J3
2001 5 All cities/towns in Ehime 2001–2005 2005 J2
2008 1 All cities/towns in Okayama 2008  — J2
2013 1 Fukushima, Fukushima 2013  — J3
2001 10 All cities/towns in Tottori 2001–2010 2010 J3
2007 1 All cities/towns in Gifu 2007  — J2
1999 1 Mito, Ibaraki 1999  — J2
1999 5 Numazu, Shizuoka 1999–2003  — Defunct
2006 6 Ichihara, Chiba 2006–2011  — Defunct
2011 3 All cities/towns in Kagawa 2011–2013  — J2
1999 11 Kariya, Aichi 1999–2009  — Tōkai League D1
2008 1 All cities/towns in Toyama 2008  — J3
1999 6 Machida, Tokyo 1999–2003  — Kantō University League
2005 5 Kurashiki, Okayama 2005–2009  — Chugoku League
2012 2 Fujieda, Shizuoka 2012–2013  — J3
2008 2 Kitakyushu, Fukuoka 2008–2009  — J2
Otsuka Pharmaceuticals 1999 6 All cities/towns in Tokushima 1999–2004 2004 J2
2011 3 Nagano, Nagano 2011–2013 2013 J3
2002 1 All cities/towns in Miyazaki 2002  — Defunct
2001 4 Kumamoto, Kumamoto 2006–2007  — J2
2014 1 Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi 2014  — J3
2006 8 All cities/towns in Okinawa 2006–2013  — J3
2005 6 Ryugasaki, Ibaraki 2005–2010  — Kantō League D1
2013 1 Sagamihara, Kanagawa 2013  — J3
2002 5 Higashisumiyoshi-ku, Osaka 2002–2006  — Defunct, merged into Sagawa Shiga
2001 6 Kōtō, Tokyo 2001–2006  — Defunct, merged into Sagawa Shiga
2007 6 Moriyama, Shiga 2007–2012 2011 Defunct
2000 3 Iwata, Shizuoka 2000–2002  — Tōkai University League
2004 1 All cities/towns in Gunma 2004  — J2
2000 9 Utsunomiya, Tochigi 2000–2008  — J2
2009 4 All cities/towns in Nagasaki 2009–2012 2012 J2
2010 2 Matsumoto, Nagano 2010–2011  — J1
2001 7 Kurobe, Toyama 2001–2007  — Defunct, merged into Kataller Toyama
Yokohama FC 1999 2 Yokohama, Kanagawa 1999–2000 2000 J2
2012 2 Yokohama, Kanagawa 2012–2013  — J3
2009 4 Machida, Tokyo 2013  — J3
2010 4 Kanazawa, Ishikawa 2010–2013  — J2
  • Pink background denotes clubs that were most recently promoted to J3 League.

Championship, promotion and relegation history

Most successful clubs

Clubs in bold compete in JFL as of 2015 season. Clubs in italic no longer exist.
Club Winners Runners-up Winning seasons Runners-up seasons
Honda FC
2001, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2014 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004
2007, 2009, 2011 2010
Otsuka Pharmaceuticals
2003, 2004 2001
Yokohama FC
1999, 2000
2013 2011, 2012
' 0 2 2002, 2006

Third-tier league: 1999–2013

Season Champions Runners-up Promoted to J2 after the season Promoted from Regional Leagues before the season Relegated to Regional Leagues after the season
1999 Yokohama F.C. Honda F.C. Mito HollyHock Yokogawa Denki None
2000 Yokohama F.C. Honda F.C. Yokohama FC Tochigi S.C.
Shizuoka Kengyo University F.C.
Alo's Hokuriku
F.C. Kyoken
2001 Honda F.C. Otsuka Pharmaceutical F.C. None Sagawa Express Tokyo S.C.
S.C. Tottori
Ehime F.C.
NTT West Japan-Kumamoto
2002 Honda F.C. Sagawa Express Tokyo S.C. None Sagawa Express Osaka S.C.
Profesor Miyazaki
Shizuoka Kengyo University F.C.
Alouette Kumamoto
Profesor Miyazaki
2003 Otsuka Pharmaceutical F.C. Honda F.C. None Sagawa Printing S.C. Jatco F.C. (disbanded)
F.C. Kyoto BAMB 1993 (F.C. Kyoken)
2004 Otsuka Pharmaceutical F.C. Honda F.C. Otsuka (Tokushima Vortis)
Thespa Kusatsu
Gunma Horikoshi
Kokushikan University F.C. (forced to withdraw due to scandal)
2005 Ehime F.C. YKK AP F.C. Ehime Ryutsu Keizai University F.C.
Mitsubishi Motors Mizushima F.C.
Honda Lock S.C.
2006 Honda F.C. Sagawa Express Tokyo S.C. None JEF United Ichihara Chiba B
Rosso Kumamoto
F.C. Ryukyu
Honda Lock S.C.
(Sagawa Express Tokyo and Osaka clubs merge to form a single club)
2007 Sagawa Express S.C. Rosso Kumamoto Kumamoto
F.C. Gifu
(Alo's Hokuriku and YKK AP merge to form Kataller Toyama)
2008 Honda FC Tochigi SC Tochigi SC

Fagiano Okayama

2009 Sagawa Shiga Yokogawa Musashino New Wave Kitakyushu
V-Varen Nagasaki
(voluntary withdrawal)
2010 Gainare Tottori Sagawa Shiga Tottori Matsumoto Yamaga

2011 Sagawa Shiga Nagano Parceiro Machida
Kamatamare Sanuki
Nagano Parceiro
Arte Takasaki (disbanded)
2012 V-Varen Nagasaki Nagano Parceiro Nagasaki

Sagawa Shiga (disbanded)
2013 Nagano Parceiro Kamatamare Sanuki Sanuki
*The following teams were admitted to the new J3 League: Nagano Parceiro, SC Sagamihara, Machida Zelvia, Zweigen Kanazawa, , , YSCC Yokohama, Fujieda MYFC and Fukushima United.

Fourth-tier League: 2014—

Beginning in 2014 the Japan Football League switched to the Apertura and Clausura format to determine the champions.
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 (A) SP Kyoto FC (C)

Maruyasu Industries SC
Renofa Yamaguchi

External links

  • Official Site (in Japanese)
  • Unofficial news site (in Japanese)
  • 2010 season(in French/English)
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