As the J.League gradually expanded, in line with the goals of its "Hundred Year Plan", the desire to spread the joy of the Beautiful Game to every corner of Japan was tempered by concerns about the potential for chaos, if the expansion was allowed to proceed in haphazard fashion. The collapse of Yokohama Flugels in 1998, and a near-disaster at Bellmare Hiratsuka the following year, created a crisis that J.League management never wants to revisit. There have been several phases in which the organizers had to step in and set strict targets for financial and organizational support, while trying to maintain a balance between growth and stability.
The most recent hurdle that the League encountered came after the J2 expanded to 22 teams, in 2012. Many were hesitant about further expansion, until the existing clubs had time to stabilize and establish solid revenue streams, but there were still a dozen or more clubs which had been organized with the specific aim of joining the professional ranks, and were nearing the point where they could satisfy J2 entry criteria. Fans, players and team management alike were frustrated (to say the least) at the League's desire to "close the door for a few years". In 2013 the League accommodated the impatient newcomers by allowing VVaren Nagasaki to join the J2, but in doing so infuriated fans in Western Tokyo by sending Machida Zelvia back into the JFL -- a fully professional team in a nominally amateur league.
It was clear that the League could not delay the next phase any longer, so the 2013 season was set up as a sort of "football team decathalon", with every amateur club in the country competing to meet a set of financial, organizational, fan-related (attendance) and on-the-field requirements. By December, eleven teams had met all the requirements, and the fourth phase of expansion began, with the creation of a third division (the "J3"). The founding members of the J3 were Gainare Tottori and Machida Zelvia (which both had played in the J2 previously), as well as AC Nagano Parceiro, Blaublitz Akita, Grulla Morioka, Fujieda MyFC, Fukushima United, FC Ryukyu, SC Sagamihara, Zweigen Kanazawa and YSCC.
The J3 has now expanded to 16 teams -- 13 actual "pro clubs" as well as the U-23 squads of Cerezo Osaka, Gamba Osaka and FC Tokyo. The inclusion of U-23 teams allowed the J3 to adopt a double-round-robin format, and it is unclear whether this situation will persist, or if these three youth teams will rejoin the J.League's Youth Leagues when more J3 clubs are added. In any event, the teams shown below are members of the J.League second division (J2) during the 2016 season. If you click on the icon for each team, the link will take you to a page with detailed information on that team, as well as a team schedule, a player roster, past historical data and other information (Note: the icons for Cerezo, Gamba and Tokyo are not linked. To see information on those clubs, visit the J2 or J1 section).
For information on teams in the J.League first division (J1), Click Here.
For information on teams in the J.League second division (J2), Click Here.