Japan Football League

Japan Football League
Country Japan
Confederation AFC (Asia)
Founded 1999 (1999)
Number of teams 16
Level on pyramid 4 (since 2014)
Promotion to J3 League
Relegation to Japanese Regional Leagues
Domestic cup(s) Emperor's Cup
Current champions Sony Sendai
Most championships Honda FC
(5 titles)
Website http://www.jfl.or.jp/
2016 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 the 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 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 F. 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.

Three former JFL clubs have competed in the top flight: Yokohama FC (2007), Otsuka Pharmaceuticals (2014, as Tokushima Vortis), and Matsumoto Yamaga (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 the 2012 and 2013 seasons, a club that satisfies the following criteria will be promoted to J. League Div. 2.

As 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'll start in the J3 instead. The JFL will be 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 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 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 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.

2016 season

Competition format

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

Participating clubs (2016)

Club Name First Season
in JFL
in JFL
Home Town(s) Current Spell
in JFL
Qualifiable base
for J.League
Azul Claro Numazu 2014 3 Numazu, Shizuoka 2014–   Yes
Briobecca Urayasu 2016 1 Urayasu, Chiba 2016–   Yes
Fagiano Okayama Next 2014 3 Okayama, Okayama 2014–   No
Honda FC 1999 18 Hamamatsu, Shizuoka 1999– 2014 No
Honda Lock 2005 10 Miyazaki, Miyazaki 2009–   No
Maruyasu Okazaki 2014 3 Okazaki, Aichi 2014–   No
MIO Biwako Shiga 2008 9 Kusatsu, Shiga 2008–   Yes
Nara Club 2015 2 Nara, Nara 2015–   Yes
FC Osaka 2015 2 All cities/towns in Osaka 2015–   Yes
ReinMeer Aomori 2016 1 Aomori, Aomori 2016–   Yes
Ryutsu Keizai Dragons 2015 2 Ryūgasaki, Ibaraki 2015–   No
Sony Sendai 1999 18 Miyagi Prefecture 1999– 2015 No
Tochigi Uva 2010 7 Tochigi, Tochigi 2010–   Yes
Vanraure Hachinohe 2014 3 Hachinohe, Aomori 2014–   Yes
Verspah Oita 2012 5 Ōita, Ōita 2012–   No
Tokyo Musashino City 1999 18 Musashino, Tokyo 1999–   Yes

Former clubs

Club Name First Season
in JFL
in JFL
Home Town(s) Last Spell
in JFL
JFL title
Current League
ALO's Hokuriku 2000 8 Toyama, Toyama 2000–2007   Defunct, merged into Kataller Toyama
Arte Takasaki 2004 8 Takasaki, Gunma 2004–2011   Defunct
Kyoto BAMB 1993 2000 4 Kyoto, Kyoto 2000–2004   Kansai League D1
Blaublitz Akita 2007 7 All cities/towns in Akita 2007–2013   J3
Ehime FC 2001 5 All cities/towns in Ehime 2001–2005 2005 J2
Fagiano Okayama 2008 1 All cities/towns in Okayama 2008   J2
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   J2
Mito HollyHock 1999 1 Mito, Ibaraki 1999   J2
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   J2
FC Kariya 1999 11 Kariya, Aichi 1999–2009   Tōkai League D1
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 J2
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   J2
Renofa Yamaguchi 2014 1 Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi 2014   J2
FC Ryukyu 2006 8 All cities/towns in Okinawa 2006–2013   J3
Ryutsu Keizai University 2005 6 Ryugasaki, Ibaraki 2005–2010   Kantō League D1
SC Sagamihara 2013 1 Sagamihara, Kanagawa 2013   J3
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
Thespa Kusatsu 2004 1 All cities/towns in Gunma 2004   J2
Tochigi SC 2000 9 Utsunomiya, Tochigi 2000–2008   J3
V-Varen Nagasaki 2009 4 All cities/towns in Nagasaki 2009–2012 2012 J2
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 J2
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

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
Sagawa Shiga
2007, 2009, 2011 2010
Otsuka Pharmaceuticals
2003, 2004 2001
Yokohama FC
1999, 2000
Nagano Parceiro
2013 2011, 2012
Ehime FC
Gainare Tottori
V-Varen Nagasaki
Sony Sendai
Sagawa Express Tokyo 0 2 2002, 2006
Rosso Kumamoto
Tochigi SC
Tokyo Musashino City
Kamatamare Sanuki
SP Kyoto FC
Vanraure Hachinohe

Third-tier league: 1999–2013

SeasonChampionsRunners-upPromoted to J2 after the seasonPromoted from Regional Leagues before the seasonRelegated to Regional Leagues after the season
1999Yokohama F.C.Honda F.C.Mito HollyHockYokogawa DenkiNone
2000Yokohama F.C.Honda F.C.Yokohama FCTochigi S.C.
Shizuoka Kengyo University F.C.
Alo's Hokuriku
F.C. Kyoken
2001Honda F.C.Otsuka Pharmaceutical F.C.NoneSagawa Express Tokyo S.C.
S.C. Tottori
Ehime F.C.
NTT West Japan-Kumamoto
2002Honda F.C.Sagawa Express Tokyo S.C.NoneSagawa Express Osaka S.C.
Profesor Miyazaki
Shizuoka Kengyo University F.C.
Alouette Kumamoto
Profesor Miyazaki
2003Otsuka Pharmaceutical F.C.Honda F.C.NoneSagawa Printing S.C.Jatco F.C. (disbanded)
F.C. Kyoto BAMB 1993 (F.C. Kyoken)
2004Otsuka Pharmaceutical F.C.Honda F.C.Otsuka (Tokushima Vortis)
Thespa Kusatsu
Gunma Horikoshi
Kokushikan University F.C. (forced to withdraw due to scandal)
2005Ehime F.C.YKK AP F.C.EhimeRyutsu Keizai University F.C.
Mitsubishi Motors Mizushima F.C.
Honda Lock S.C.
2006Honda F.C.Sagawa Express Tokyo S.C.NoneJEF 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)
2007Sagawa Express S.C.Rosso KumamotoKumamoto
F.C. Gifu
(Alo's Hokuriku and YKK AP merge to form Kataller Toyama)
2008Honda FCTochigi SCTochigi SC
Fagiano Okayama
Kataller Toyama
Fagiano Okayama
New Wave Kitakyushu
MIO Biwako Shiga
2009Sagawa ShigaYokogawa MusashinoNew Wave KitakyushuMachida Zelvia
V-Varen Nagasaki
Honda Lock
Mitsubishi Motors Mizushima (voluntary withdrawal)
FC Kariya
2010 Gainare Tottori Sagawa Shiga Tottori Matsumoto Yamaga
Hitachi Tochigi Uva
Zweigen Kanazawa
Ryutsu Keizai University
2011 Sagawa Shiga Nagano Parceiro Machida
Kamatamare Sanuki
Nagano Parceiro
JEF Reserves (disbanded)
Arte Takasaki (disbanded)
2012 V-Varen Nagasaki Nagano Parceiro Nagasaki YSCC Yokohama
Fujieda MYFC
Hoyo AC Elan Oita
Sagawa Shiga (disbanded)
2013Nagano Parceiro Kamatamare Sanuki SanukiSC Sagamihara
Fukushima United
*The following teams were admitted to the new J3 League: Nagano Parceiro, SC Sagamihara, Machida Zelvia, Zweigen Kanazawa, Blaublitz Akita, FC Ryukyu, 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.

SeasonChampionsRunners-upPromoted to J3 after the seasonPromoted from Regional Leagues before the seasonRelegated to Regional Leagues after the season
2014Honda FC (A) SP Kyoto FC (C) Renofa Yamaguchi Fagiano Okayama Next
Kagoshima United
Vanraure Hachinohe
Azul Claro Numazu
Maruyasu Industries SC
Renofa Yamaguchi
2015Sony Sendai (C) Vanraure Hachinohe (A) Kagoshima United Nara Club
FC Osaka
Ryutsu Keizai Dragons
SP Kyoto FC (withdrew)
2016 Azul Claro Numazu ReinMeer Aomori
Briobecca Urayasu
Fagiano Okayama Next (withdrew)

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Japan Football League Division 2
Third tier of Japanese football
Succeeded by
J3 League

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