When the J.League was formed, in 1993, there were just ten teams: Kashima Antlers, Urawa Reds, JEF United Ichihara, Verdy Kawasaki, Yokohama Marinos, Yokohama Flugels, Shimizu S-Pulse, Nagoya Grampus, Gamba Osaka, and Sanfrecce Hiroshima. However, the league grew rapidly during the first few seasons, due to strong interest from the public and the desire of many local company teams to cash in on the J.League's success. By 1998 there were 18 teams in the league. At that point, the J.League decided to add a second division (J2).
In 1999, the league adopted a two-division structure, with promotion and relegation between the two professional divisions. The league remained stable for the next five years, gaining steadily in popularity. By 2004 it was apparent that there was once again both the desire and the organizational capacity to expand, so for the 2005 season, the number of teams in the J1 was fixed at 18 teams while the J2 began to expand by accepting qualified teams from the JFL. The J2 grew quickly, from 12 teams in 2005 to 22 by 2012. Two years later, in 2014, a third division was added, and in principle, it is designed to expand for as long as there teams interested in joining the professional ranks. Currently there are 15 independent teams in the J3, and .
Due to Coronavirus issues, the League suspended relegation for the 2020 season (two teams were promoted for 2021, but none were relegated). This raises the number of J1 teams to 20 for the single season 2021 (after which, relegation will return the number to 18.
The 20 teams shown below will take part in the J.League first division (J1) during the 2021 season. If you click on the icon for each team, the link will take you to a page with detailed historical information on that team, as well as past players and historical data.
For information on teams in the J.League second division (J2), Click Here
For information on teams in the J.League third division (J3), Click Here