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Soccer is the most popular sport in the world.
Of course, in Japan many people are interested in the games of the Japanese team.

Soccer was introduced to Japan in 1873 by an English officer. Like baseball, soccer was played by students and high school pupils after that.
A few championships were started, and the level of playing was advanced.
But the popularity was lower than baseball, and Japanese team was not strong from an international viewpoint.
In the history, it was only a few notable feats that Japan team beat Swedish one as the favorite in the first match at the Berlin Olympics (1936) and won a bronze medal at Mexico Olympics (1968).

For a long time all soccer players in Japan were all amateurs.
But in the 1980s the President of FIFA approached Japan Football Association on holding the first soccer World Cup in Asia.
On this occasion it conceived an idea of the professional soccer league, and the result is that J.League started in 1993.

Now J.League is the center of Japanese soccer, and has gained popularity.


Soccer J.League consists of an upper league "J1" and an lower league "J2".
Formally they are called "J.League Division 1" and "J.League Division 2".
Now (2008), J1 has 18 teams and J2 has 15 teams. In future they have possibilities to add a few teams.

Every team name contains the name of home city unlike Japanese professional baseball, so they are entrenched in their local community.

Currently each champion team of J1 and J2 is determined by points for a season.
Usually the season starts in March and finishes in December.

After a season, the lowest 2 teams of J1 are demoted to J2, and the highest 2 teams of J2 are promoted to J1 instead.
Additionally the 3rd lowest team of J1 must play the 3rd highest team of J2 for remaining in J1.

These rules of league competition are sometimes altered.

Other soccer teams

J.League is a professional soccer league, and the other teams are all amateur teams.
Of course, there are many amateur teams in Japan, and they are general club teams and ones in universities and schools.
In those teams, there is a Japan Football League (JFL) as the highest amateur league.

JFL has currently 18 teams, and all teams play league games during a season.
The highest 2 teams are given the right to promote to J.League.

The Emperor's Cup All-Japan Soccer Championship Tournament

The Emperor's Cup All-Japan Soccer Championship Tournament is the biggest soccer event in Japan.
Not only the teams of J.League and JFL but also the amateur champion teams of every prefecture participate in this tournament.
Commonly 80 teams participate.

It starts around late September, the teams of J.League come in around November as seeds, and the final match is played on New Year's Day.

Main result of Japanese team in international competitions

  • Olympics : Mexico (1968) Bronze medal
  • The FIFA World Cup : South Korea and Japan (2002) top 16
  • The FIFA World Cup : South Africa (2010) top 16
  • The AFC Asian Cup (Every 4 years, 1956-2007) : Champion 3 times

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