|Founded||2013; 8 years ago|
|Number of teams||18|
|Level on pyramid||3|
|Promotion to||J2 League|
|Relegation to||Japan Football League (planned; from 2023)|
|Domestic cup(s)||Emperor's Cup|
|Current champions||Roasso Kumamoto (1st title) |
|Most championships||Blaublitz Akita (2 titles)|
YouTube (outside Japan)
|Current: 2022 J3 League|
J3 League (Japanese: J3リーグ, Hepburn: J3 Rīgu) or simply J3 is the third division of Japan Professional Football League (日本プロサッカーリーグ, Nihon Puro Sakkā Rīgu) that has established a third-tier professional association football league in Japan starting in 2013.
The third-tier nationwide league is a relatively recent development in Japanese football with the first attempt dated 1992 (second division of the old JFL), though it only lasted for two seasons. In 1999, following the establishment of J2 League, a new Japan Football League was created, becoming the third tier onwards. After introduction of J3 the JFL has been moved down the pyramid and become a fourth-tier nationwide league, for the first time in history of Japanese football.
The league is known by their title sponsor, the Meiji Yasuda J3 League (Japanese: 明治安田生命J3リーグ).
A national third tier of Japanese association football was first established along with its professionalization in 1992, when the newly created Japan Football League kicked off with two tiers below the professional J. League. Among the 10 original clubs of the third tier included the forerunners to Kyoto Sanga FC, Ventforet Kofu, Omiya Ardija, Avispa Fukuoka and Vissel Kobe (the latter two being located in different regions from their J. League successors). But after a number of clubs were lost for various reasons – some were promoted to J.League and the others folded – the league contracted the second division in 1994 and continued with the single second-tier division.
The third tier football was reintroduced in 1999 upon creation of fully professional J2. The old JFL was dissolved but a new Japan Football League was formed the same year in order to establish a nationwide top-tier amateur league. But despite its officially amateur status the league quickly became de facto semi-professional, serving as the cradle of the future J. League members. Since the establishment of associate membership system in 2006 the number of professional clubs holding or actively seeking for this status has grown steadily and reached its peak in 2013 season when 6 full members and 2 former candidates made up to almost half of the league's 18 teams. Through the course of the season this number grew even bigger, to 10 full associate members that formed the core of J3.
Close to the end of 2012 football season Japanese media began to spread rumors about the upcoming professional third-tier league, referred to as either "J3" or "J.Challenge League". Most of the sources agreed that the new league will feature around 10–12 clubs, most of which will be associate members. The league would also provide more relaxed licensing criteria in comparison to J2 – e.g. the stadium seating capacity of just 3,000 with no mandatory floodlighting.
After the discussion on J1-J2 Joint Committee on 16 January 2013, all J.League clubs agreed in principle with an establishment of the new league starting 2014. This decision was formally put into force by J.League Council in a 26 February executive meeting. The league was planned to launch with 10 teams, but another session of J.League Council in July decided that inaugural season of J3 will feature 12 teams.
To participate, a club must have held an associate membership, or have submitted an application before 30 June 2013, and then passed an inspection to obtain a participation licence issued by J.League Council. On 19 November, J.League confirmed the following clubs to participate in the inaugural J3 season:
The league has not provided a clear expansion timeline yet but it was most likely that J3 continued to accommodate new teams after its inaugural season. The following is a list of clubs that may get promoted to J.League in the near future:
Other teams have applied for J.League associate membership but were denied. Most of these clubs continue to aim for J3 as their ultimate goal.
Two teams, one withdrew its J3 license and the other its J.League 100 Year Plan status, formerly associate membership:
Some sources claim that J3 was intended to reach up to 60 clubs in the future, being split into three regionalized divisions running in parallel.
|Year||Important events||No. J3
A J.League U-22 Selection is also included, composed of the best J1 and J2 youngsters to prepare them for the 2016 Olympics.
Main article: 2022 J3 League
For this season, the league is played in two rounds (home-and-away), each team playing a total of 34 matches.
Each team must have at least 3 players holding professional contracts. Also, from the 2016 season, 5 foreign players are allowed per team, plus 1 more from J.League's ASEAN partner country of or from other AFC countries. The matchday roster will consist of 18 players, and up to 3 substitutes will be allowed in a game.
Rules for promotion to J2 are largely similar to those of Japan Football League in recent seasons: to be promoted, a club must hold or be granted a J2 license and finish in top 2 of the league. Since 2017, the champions and the runners-up have been promoted directly and replace the 21st- and 22nd-placed J2 clubs. If only the champion or runner-up holds or is given a J2 license, only the bottom club of J2 is relegated; if both top 2 finishers are ineligible for promotion, then no teams will be promoted to or relegated from J2.
At a J.League board meeting in August 2021, 60 clubs (of which 20 are J3) were targeted for the entire league, and a possibility that J3 will have exceeded 20 clubs by the 2023 season was brought up. Mitsuru Murai, the J.League chairman, revealed that he was discussing how to adjust to 20 clubs. At this time, he was asked, "If there is a possibility of the [J3] league having 21 teams, is it okay to understand that there are teams that will fall from J3 to JFL?" While under consideration, he admitted that the J3 and JFL were considering the introduction of relegation to the latter league as early as after the 2022 season. Later in November, Murai announced that promotion from and relegation to the JFL had been planned following the 2023 season.
|Club name||Year joined||Seasons
|Based in||First season
|Azul Claro Numazu||2017||5||Numazu, Shizuoka||2017||5||2017–||–|
|Ehime FC||2006 (J2)||5||All cities/towns in Ehime||2001||5||2022–||2006–2021|
|Fujieda MYFC||2014||8||Central cities/towns in Shizuoka||2012||10||2012–||–|
|Fukushima United||2014||8||All cities/towns in Fukushima||2013||9||2013–||–|
|Gainare Tottori||2011 (J2)||7||All cities/towns in Tottori||2001||17||2014–||2011–2013|
|FC Gifu||2008 (J2)||1||All cities/towns in Gifu||2007||1||2020–||2008–2019|
|Giravanz Kitakyushu||2010 (J2)||3||Kitakyushu, Fukuoka||2008||5||2022–||2020–2021|
|FC Imabari||2020||2||Imabari, Ehime||2020||2||2020–||–|
|Iwaki FC||2022||0||Iwaki and Futaba District, Fukushima||2022||0||2022–||–|
|Kagoshima United||2016||5||Kagoshima, Kagoshima||2016||5||2020–||2019|
|Kamatamare Sanuki||2014 (J2)||3||Takamatsu, Kagawa||2011||6||2019–||2014–2018|
|Kataller Toyama||2009 (J2)||7||All cities/towns in Toyama||2008||8||2015–||2009–2014|
|Matsumoto Yamaga||2012 (J2)||2||Central cities/towns in Nagano||2010||2||2022–||2020–2021|
|Nagano Parceiro||2014||8||Northern cities/towns/villages in Nagano||2011||11||2011–||–|
|SC Sagamihara||2014||7||Sagamihara, Kanagawa||2013||8||2022–||2021|
|Tegevajaro Miyazaki||2021||1||Miyazaki, Miyazaki||2021||1||2021–||–|
|Vanraure Hachinohe||2019||3||Hachinohe, Aomori||2019||8||2019–||–|
|YSCC Yokohama||2014||8||Yokohama, Kanagawa||2012||10||2012–||–|
Main article: List of football stadiums in Japan
See also: Category:Football venues in Japan
Primary venues used in the J3 League:
|Vanraure Hachinohe||Fukushima United FC||YSCC Yokohama||Nagano Parceiro||Kataller Toyama||Ehime FC|
|Prifoods Stadium||Toho Stadium||Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium||Nagano U Stadium||Toyama Stadium||Ningineer Stadium|
|Capacity: 5,124||Capacity: 6,464||Capacity: 15,440||Capacity: 15,515||Capacity: 18,588||Capacity: 20,000|
|Fujieda MYFC||Azul Claro Numazu||FC Gifu||Gainare Tottori||Kamatamare Sanuki||FC Imabari|
|Fujieda Soccer Stadium||Ashitaka Park Stadium||Gifu Nagaragawa Stadium||Axis Bird Stadium||Pikara Stadium||Arigato Service Dream Stadium|
|Capacity: 5,056||Capacity: 5,104||Capacity: 16,310||Capacity: 11,999||Capacity: 22,338||Capacity: 5,063|
|Giravanz Kitakyushu||Tegevajaro Miyazaki||Kagoshima United FC||Matsumoto Yamaga||Iwaki FC||SC Sagamihara|
|Mikuni World Stadium Kitakyushu||Unilever Stadium Shintomi||Shiranami Stadium||Sunpro Alwin||J-Village Stadium||Sagamihara Gion Stadium|
|Capacity: 15,300||Capacity: 5,354||Capacity: 12,606||Capacity: 20,000||Capacity: 5,000||Capacity: 15,300|
|Club name||Year joined||Seasons
|Based in||First season
|Blaublitz Akita||2014||7||All cities/towns in Akita||2007||14||2007–2020||J2|
|Cerezo Osaka U-23||2016||5||Osaka & Sakai, Osaka||2016||5||2016–2020||defunct|
|FC Tokyo U-23||2016||4||Chōfu, Tokyo||2016||4||2016–2019||defunct|
|Gamba Osaka U-23||2016||5||Northern cities in Osaka||2016||5||2016–2020||defunct|
|Iwate Grulla Morioka||2014||8||Morioka, Iwate||2014||8||2014–2021||J2|
|J.League U-22 Selection||2014||2||Played away games only||2014||2||2015||defunct|
|Renofa Yamaguchi||2015||1||Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi||2015||1||2015||J2|
|Roasso Kumamoto||2008 (J2)||3||Kumamoto, Kumamoto||2006||5||2019–2021||J2|
|FC Ryukyu||2014||5||All cities/towns in Okinawa||2006||13||2006–2018||J2|
|Thespakusatsu Gunma||2005 (J2)||2||All cities/towns in Gunma||2004||3||2018–2019||J2|
|Tochigi SC||2009 (J2)||2||Utsunomiya, Tochigi||2000||11||2016–2017||J2|
|Oita Trinita||1999 (J2)||1||All cities/towns in Ōita||2016||1||2016||J2|
|Machida Zelvia||2012 (J2)||2||Machida, Tokyo||2009||6||2015||J2|
|Zweigen Kanazawa||2014||1||Kanazawa, Ishikawa||2010||5||2014||J2|
Main article: List of winners of J3 League and predecessors
|Zweigen Kanazawa||Nagano Parceiro†||Machida Zelvia|
|Renofa Yamaguchi||Machida Zelvia‡||Nagano Parceiro|
|Oita Trinita||Tochigi SC||Nagano Parceiro|
|Blaublitz Akita||Tochigi SC||Azul Claro Numazu|
|FC Ryukyu||Kagoshima United||Gainare Tottori|
|Giravanz Kitakyushu||Thespakusatsu Gunma||Fujieda MYFC|
|Blaublitz Akita||SC Sagamihara||Nagano Parceiro|
|Roasso Kumamoto||Iwate Grulla Morioka||Tegevajaro Miyazaki|
* Bold designates the promoted club;
† Lost the J2–J3 playoffs;
‡ Won the J2–J3 playoffs and got promoted;
Clubs in bold compete in J3 as of 2022 season.
|Club||Winners||Runners-up||Promotions||Winning seasons||Runners-up seasons||Promotion seasons|
|Blaublitz Akita||2017, 2020||2020|
|Tochigi SC||2016, 2017||2017|
|Iwate Grulla Morioka||2021||2021|
|2014||Koji Suzuki||Japan||Machida Zelvia||19|
|2015||Kazuhito Kishida||Renofa Yamaguchi FC||32|
|2016||Noriaki Fujimoto||Kagoshima United FC||15|
|2019||Taichi Hara||Japan||FC Tokyo U-23||19|
|2020||Kaito Taniguchi||Roasso Kumamoto||18|
|2021||Shota Kawanishi||FC Gifu||13|