|Date||R||Home vs Away||-|
|05/22 06:00||14||Jubilo Iwata vs Consadole Sapporo||View|
|05/25 10:00||15||Consadole Sapporo vs Kashiwa Reysol||View|
|05/25 10:00||15||Kashima Antlers vs Sagan Tosu||View|
|05/25 10:00||15||Kawasaki Frontale vs Shonan Bellmare||View|
|05/25 10:00||15||Yokohama F-Marinos vs Kyoto Sanga FC||View|
|05/25 10:00||15||Shimizu S-Pulse vs FC Tokyo||View|
|05/25 10:00||15||Gamba Osaka vs Sanfrecce Hiroshima||View|
|05/25 10:00||15||Cerezo Osaka vs Urawa Red Diamonds||View|
|05/25 10:00||15||Vissel Kobe vs Jubilo Iwata||View|
|05/25 10:30||15||Nagoya Grampus vs Avispa Fukuoka||View|
|05/28 05:00||16||Sanfrecce Hiroshima vs Nagoya Grampus||View|
|05/28 08:00||16||Avispa Fukuoka vs Urawa Red Diamonds||View|
|Date||R||Home vs Away||-|
|05/21 10:00||14|| Avispa Fukuoka vs Yokohama F-Marinos ||1-0|
|05/21 08:00||14|| Sagan Tosu vs Kawasaki Frontale ||0-0|
|05/21 08:00||14|| Urawa Red Diamonds vs Kashima Antlers ||1-1|
|05/21 06:00||14|| Shonan Bellmare vs Vissel Kobe ||2-1|
|05/21 06:00||14|| FC Tokyo vs Kashiwa Reysol ||0-0|
|05/21 05:00||14|| Cerezo Osaka vs Gamba Osaka ||3-1|
|05/21 05:00||14|| Shimizu S-Pulse vs Nagoya Grampus ||1-2|
|05/21 04:00||14|| Sanfrecce Hiroshima vs Kyoto Sanga FC ||3-1|
|05/18 10:30||11|| Urawa Red Diamonds vs Yokohama F-Marinos ||3-3|
|05/18 10:00||11|| Vissel Kobe vs Kawasaki Frontale ||0-1|
|05/14 10:00||13|| Kashiwa Reysol vs Gamba Osaka ||0-1|
|05/14 07:00||13|| Shonan Bellmare vs Yokohama F-Marinos ||1-4|
The J1 League (Japanese: J1リーグ, Hepburn: Jē-wan Rīgu), known as the Meiji Yasuda J1 League (Japanese: 明治安田生命J1リーグ) for sponsorship reasons, 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. Founded in 1992, it is one of the most successful leagues in Asian club football. Contested by 18 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the J2 League. Until the 2014 season, it was known as the J League Division 1.
Before the inception of the J.League, the highest level of club football was the Japan Soccer League (JSL), which consisted of amateur clubs. 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.
J.League officially kicked off its first season with ten clubs in early 1993.
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.
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 champion from each half played a two-legged series to determine the overall season winner 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.
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.
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. 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.
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 criteria 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.
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. 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. 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.
|Year||Important events||No. J clubs||No. ACL clubs||Rel. slots|
||18||2 + 1||2.5|