Japan Football League (JFL)

The Japan Football League (JFL) was first created in 1993, in parallel with the establishment of the J.League, on the foundation of the former Japan Soccer League (JSL). It consisted of those teams that either preferred to remain as non-professional, company teams or lacked the financial and organizational base to establish a J.League team in 1992/93. Although its exact position in the "football pyramid" has changed over time, the JFL has always -- at least theoretically -- represented the highest level of Japan's amateur football structure.

The JFL was reorganized in 1999, following the creation of the J.League's second division, and the departure of many former JFL teams to a professional existence. The JFL initially included only nine teams, with all the others having been promoted to the newly created J2. The number rose to 12 in 2000, and over the subsequent years from 2001-2014, the number of teams increased to as many as 18 and decreased to as few as 12, as organizers struggled to find a format that would generate enough competition to be worthy of its role as "the pinnacle of success for an amateur team," while not placing an undue burden on the players, most of whom must work a full-time job in addition to their football activities.

As discussed elsewhere on this site, the JFL was riven by dissension for the better part of 15 years, due to the conflicting structures and incentives for "truly" amateur teams and teams that were nominally amateur, but operating as professional teams in all aspects except formal J.League recognition. Eventually, the JFL managed to persuade the J.League to make changes that would -- as much as possible -- preserve the "amateur" nature of the JFL and the teams it oversees. The "third creation" of the JFL, in 2014, permanently separated the professional football pyramid (the J.League) from the amateur pyramid. There are indeed some members that have every intention of becoming fully professional clubs in the future, but all operate under the assumption that amateur status and amateur principles will be respected.

The and conducts promotion and relegation every year based on the outcome of a "Nationwide Regional League Champions Tournament". Since its third incarnation in 2014, it has contained 16 teams, which play a "two stage" format similar to that used in the J1 prior to 2005 -- the winners of each stage play a home-and-away series for the championship trophy, and if one team wins both stages, they are declared the champions automatically.

The teams that took part in the 2016 campaign (our last update here) are listed below. Click on the icons to select the individual team pages, with detailed information on the club, its history, and more.