|Number of teams||17|
|Level on pyramid||4|
|Promotion to||J3 League|
|Relegation to||Japanese Regional Leagues|
|Domestic cup(s)||Emperor's Cup|
|Current champions||Verspah Oita |
|Most championships||Honda FC|
|Current: 2021 Japan Football League|
The Japan Football League, (Japanese: 日本フットボールリーグ, Hepburn: Nihon Futtobōru Rīgu) also known as simply the JFL is the 4th tier of the Japanese association football league system, positioned beneath the three divisions of the J.League. The league features fully professional teams that hold J.League associate membership among its ranks.
According to the official document published in December 2013 when the J3 League was established, the J3 League was the 3rd level of the J.League. The J.League and non-J.League amateur leagues have different hierarchical structures, and the J3 League was ranked on the same level as the JFL. In addition, the JFL itself has the same recognition in the material showing the league composition on the official website. Therefore, the JFL is treated as equal to J3 in theory, but in practice it is considered equivalent to a 4th division.
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 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.
Four former JFL clubs have competed in the top flight: Yokohama FC (2007), Otsuka Pharmaceuticals (2014, as Tokushima Vortis), Matsumoto Yamaga (2015), and V-Varen Nagasaki (2018).
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.
A club that satisfies the following criteria will be promoted to J.League Div. 2 (for the 2012 and 2013 seasons):
With 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 start in the J3 instead. The JFL is 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.
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.
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. In 2015, only the winner of the apertura (first half) qualified.
In 1999 (Bangabandhu Cup) and since 2014, a JFL XI team has played off-season matches against guest teams. The 2016 season also featured an JFL East vs JFL West all-star encounter.
Main article: 2021 Japan Football League
The league follows a one-stage double round-robin, wherein the team finishing at the top of the table following the season is declared the champion. From 2014 to 2018 it used the Apertura and Clausura system, with two winners of each stage contesting the championship in the playoff. From 2019 it used the single table with double round-robin system to 30 matches.
|Club Name||First Season
|Home Town(s)||Current Spell
|Honda FC||1999||22||Hamamatsu, Shizuoka||1999–||2019||No|
|Iwaki FC||2020||1||Iwaki, Fukushima||2020–||–||Yes|
|FC Kariya||1999||11||Kariya, Aichi||2021–||–||Yes|
|Honda Lock||2005||14||Miyazaki, Miyazaki||2009–||–||No|
|Maruyasu Okazaki||2014||7||Okazaki, Aichi||2014–||–||No|
|Matsue City FC||2019||2||Matsue, Shimane||2019–||-||Yes|
|MIO Biwako Shiga||2008||13||Kusatsu, Shiga||2008–||–||Yes|
|Nara Club||2015||6||Nara, Nara||2015–||–||Yes|
|FC Osaka||2015||6||Higashiosaka, Osaka||2015–||–||Yes|
|Kochi United SC||2020||1||Kochi, Kochi||2020-||–||Yes|
|ReinMeer Aomori||2016||5||Aomori, Aomori||2016–||–||Yes|
|Sony Sendai||1999||22||Miyagi Prefecture||1999–||2015||No|
|Suzuka Point Getters||2019||2||Suzuka, Mie||2019–||–||Yes|
|FC Tiamo Hirakata||2021||0||Hirakata, Osaka||2021–||–||Yes|
|Tokyo Musashino United||1999||22||Musashino, Tokyo||1999–||–||Yes|
|Veertien Mie||2017||4||Kuwana, Mie||2017–||–||Yes|
|Verspah Oita||2012||9||Beppu, Ōita||2012–||2020||Yes|
Main article: List of football stadiums in Japan
See also: Category:Football venues in Japan
Primary venues used in the JFL:
|ReinMeer Aomori||Sony Sendai FC||Iwaki FC||Tokyo Musashino United FC||Honda FC|
|Kakuhiro Group Athletic Stadium||Yurtec Stadium Sendai||Iwaki Greenfield Stadium||J-Village Stadium||Musashino Municipal Athletic Stadium||Honda Miyakoda Soccer Stadium|
|Capacity: 20,809||Capacity: 19,694||Capacity: 5,600||Capacity: 5,000||Capacity: 5,192||Capacity: 2,500|
|FC Maruyasu Okazaki||FC Kariya||Suzuka Point Getters||Veertien Mie||MIO Biwako Shiga||Nara Club|
|Nagoya Minato Stadium||Wave Stadium Kariya||Mie Suzuka Sports Garden||ASAHI GAS ENERGY TOIN STADIUM||General Sports Park Nunobiki Athletics Stadium||Rohto Field Nara|
|Capacity: 20,000||Capacity: 4,000||Capacity: 12,500||Capacity: 5,104||Capacity: 5,060||Capacity: 30,600|
|F.C. Osaka||FC Tiamo Hirakata||Matsue City FC||Kochi United SC||Verspah Oita||Honda Lock SC|
|Hattori Ryokuchi Athletics Stadium||Hirakata City Athletics Stadium||Matsue Athletic Stadium||Kochi Haruno Athletic Stadium||Oita Sports Park||Nobeoka Nishishina Athletic Stadium|
|Capacity: 6,949||Capacity: 2,500||Capacity: 24,000||Capacity: 25,000||Capacity: 2,040||Capacity: 15,000|
|Club Name||First Season
|Home Town(s)||Last Spell
|ALO's Hokuriku||2000||8||Toyama, Toyama||2000–2007||–||Defunct, merged into Kataller Toyama|
|Arte Takasaki||2004||8||Takasaki, Gunma||2004–2011||–||Defunct|
|Azul Claro Numazu||2014||3||Numazu, Shizuoka||2014–2016||–||J3|
|Kyoto BAMB 1993||2000||4||Kyoto, Kyoto||2000–2004||–||Kansai League D1|
|Blaublitz Akita||2007||7||All cities/towns in Akita||2007–2013||–||J2|
|Briobecca Urayasu||2016||2||Urayasu, Chiba||2016–2017||–||Kantō League D1|
|Cobaltore Onagawa||2018||1||Onagawa, Miyagi||2018||–||Tohoku League D1|
|Ehime FC||2001||5||All cities/towns in Ehime||2001–2005||2005||J2|
|Fagiano Okayama||2008||1||All cities/towns in Okayama||2008||–||J2|
|Fagiano Okayama Next||2014||3||Okayama, Okayama||2014–2016||–||Defunct|
|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||–||J3|
|Mito HollyHock||1999||1||Mito, Ibaraki||1999||–||J2|
|FC Imabari||2017||3||Imabari, Ehime||2017–2019||–||J3|
|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||–||J3|
|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||J1|
|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||–||J3|
|Renofa Yamaguchi||2014||1||Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi||2014||–||J2|
|FC Ryukyu||2006||8||All cities/towns in Okinawa||2006–2013||–||J2|
|Ryutsu Keizai University||2005||6||Ryugasaki, Ibaraki||2005–2010||–||Kantō League D1|
|Ryutsu Keizai Dragons Ryugasaki||2015||5||Ryugasaki, Ibaraki||2015-2019||–||Kantō League D1|
|SC Sagamihara||2013||1||Sagamihara, Kanagawa||2013||–||J2|
|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|
|Tegevajaro Miyazaki||2018||3||Miyazaki, Miyazaki||2018–2020||–||J3|
|Thespa Kusatsu||2004||1||All cities/towns in Gunma||2004||–||J2|
|Tochigi SC||2000||9||Utsunomiya, Tochigi||2000–2008||–||J2|
|Tochigi Uva FC||2010||8||Tochigi, Tochigi||2010–2017||–||Kantō League D1|
|V-Varen Nagasaki||2009||4||All cities/towns in Nagasaki||2009–2012||2012||J2|
|Vanraure Hachinohe||2014||5||Hachinohe, Aomori||2014–2018||–||J3|
|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||J1|
|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|
Clubs in bold compete in JFL as of 2021 season. Clubs in italic no longer exist.
|Club||Winners||Runners-up||Winning seasons||Runners-up seasons|
|Honda FC||2001, 2002, 2006, 2008,
2014, 2016, 2017, 2018,
|1999, 2000, 2003, 2004|
|Sagawa Shiga||2007, 2009, 2011||2010|
|Otsuka Pharmaceuticals||2003, 2004||2001|
|Yokohama FC||1999, 2000|
|Nagano Parceiro||2013||2011, 2012|
|Sagawa Express Tokyo||0||2||2002, 2006|
|Tokyo Musashino United||2009|
|SP Kyoto FC||2014|
|Ryutsu Keizai Dragons||2016|
|Season||Champions||Runners-up||Promoted to J2 after the season||Promoted from Regional Leagues before the season||Relegated to Regional Leagues after the season|
|1999||Yokohama F.C.||Honda F.C.||Mito HollyHock||Yokogawa Denki||None|
|2000||Yokohama F.C.||Honda F.C.||Yokohama FC||Tochigi S.C.
Shizuoka Kengyo University F.C.
|2001||Honda F.C.||Otsuka Pharmaceutical F.C.||None||Sagawa Express Tokyo S.C.
YKK AP F.C.
NTT West Japan-Kumamoto
|2002||Honda F.C.||Sagawa Express Tokyo S.C.||None||Sagawa Express Osaka S.C.
|Shizuoka Kengyo University F.C.|
|2003||Otsuka Pharmaceutical F.C.||Honda F.C.||None||Sagawa Printing S.C.||Jatco F.C. (disbanded)|
F.C. Kyoto BAMB 1993 (F.C. Kyoken)
|2004||Otsuka Pharmaceutical F.C.||Honda F.C.||Otsuka (Tokushima Vortis)
|Kokushikan University F.C. (forced to withdraw due to scandal)|
|2005||Ehime F.C.||YKK AP F.C.||Ehime||Ryutsu Keizai University F.C.
Mitsubishi Mizushima FC
Honda Lock S.C.
|2006||Honda F.C.||Sagawa Express Tokyo S.C.||None||JEF United Ichihara Chiba B
|Honda Lock SC|
(Sagawa Express Tokyo and Osaka clubs merge to form a single club)
|2007||Sagawa Express S.C.||Rosso Kumamoto||Kumamoto
|(Alo's Hokuriku and YKK AP merge to form Kataller Toyama)|
|2008||Honda FC||Tochigi SC||Tochigi SC
New Wave Kitakyushu
MIO Biwako Shiga
|2009||Sagawa Shiga||Tokyo Musashino City||New Wave Kitakyushu||Machida Zelvia
|Mitsubishi Motors Mizushima (voluntary withdrawal)|
|2010||Gainare Tottori||Sagawa Shiga||Tottori||Matsumoto Yamaga
Hitachi Tochigi Uva
|Ryutsu Keizai University|
|2011||Sagawa Shiga||Nagano Parceiro||Machida
|JEF Reserves (disbanded)|
Arte Takasaki (disbanded)
|2012||V-Varen Nagasaki||Nagano Parceiro||Nagasaki||YSCC Yokohama
Hoyo AC Elan Oita
|Sagawa Shiga (disbanded)|
|2013||Nagano Parceiro||Kamatamare Sanuki||Sanuki||SC Sagamihara
|*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.|
From 2014 to 2018 the Japan Football League switched to the Apertura and Clausura format to determine the champions. In 2019 the single-table format returned.
|Season||Champions||Runners-up||Promoted to J3 after the season||Promoted from Regional Leagues before the season||Relegated to Regional Leagues after the season|
|2014||Honda FC (A)||SP Kyoto FC (C)||Renofa Yamaguchi||Fagiano Okayama Next
Azul Claro Numazu
Maruyasu Industries SC
|2015||Sony Sendai (C)||Vanraure Hachinohe (A)||Kagoshima United||Nara Club
Ryutsu Keizai Dragons
|SP Kyoto FC (disbanded)|
|2016||Honda FC (C)||Ryutsu Keizai Dragons (A)||Azul Claro Numazu||ReinMeer Aomori
|Fagiano Okayama Next (disbanded)|
|2017||Honda FC (1)||ReinMeer Aomori (2)||None||FC Imabari
|2018||Honda FC (1)||FC Osaka (2)||Vanraure Hachinohe||Cobaltore Onagawa
|2019||Honda FC||Sony Sendai||FC Imabari||Matsue City FC
|Ryutsu Keizai Dragons|
|2020†||Verspah Oita||Tegevajaro Miyazaki||Tegevajaro Miyazaki||Iwaki FC
Kochi United SC
|2021||FC Tiamo Hirakata
A = Apertura champion, C = Clausura champion, 1 = Won both stages, 2 = Earned the second most points total in the overall table if 1 applies.
† Only second half of season was played due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan.
In bold the ones who are actually playing in JFL. In italic the ones who are still active in other league.