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[JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] J.League Gears Up for 31st Season

Parity has been one of the defining trademarks of the J.League since its inception in 1993, with seven teams winning two or more league titles.



Yokohama F. Marinos celebrate their 2-1 victory over Ventforet Kofu in the 2023 Fujifilm Super Cup at Tokyo's National Stadium on February 11. (ⒸSANKEI)

Read the full story on SportsLook - J.League Gears Up for 31st Season

Thirty years is a big sample size to pore through statistics and trends in any professional sports league, and the J.League is now entering its 31st season.

The J.League's launch in 1993 heralded a new professional era in soccer here, replacing the Japan Soccer League's amateur and corporate model. (Players were technically amateurs and known as company employees under that model. But they were paid to play the game by Japanese corporations.)

Europe's best-known soccer circuit, the English Premier League, held its inaugural season in 1992-93. So a similar timeline exists between Japan and Britain in the recent past and current eras.

Four Premier League teams have won all but three season titles. Manchester United (13 titles), Manchester City (six), Chelsea (five) and Arsenal (three) have had the most success.

The J.League's titles have been distributed more evenly among its teams over the years.

To the delight of their fans, the Kashima Antlers have been the most successful club, winning eight J.League titles.

Reigning champion Yokohama F. Marinos are next on the list with five titles, followed by Kawasaki Frontale (four). Jubilo Iwata and Sanfrecce Hiroshima have won three apiece and Gamba Osaka and Verdy Kawasaki have two titles apiece, while the Urawa Reds, Nagoya Grampus and Kashiwa Reysol have all won one championship.

Ushering in the new season, Frontale play host to Marinos on Friday, February 17, while the rest of the J.League's 18 first division teams are set to play their season openers the next day.

A Tight Finish in 2022

In 2022, Marinos edged Frontale by two points in the J.League standings, ending their Kanagawa Prefecture rivals' two-year title reign.

Kawasaki entered the 2022 campaign after securing the title trophies by 18 and 13 points in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

Australian boss Kevin Muscat took over as Yokohama manager in July 2021, replacing Ange Postecolgou, who departed to become Celtic FC's new manager.

And Marinos embraced the challenge, climbing from runners-up in 2021 to the top of the 18-team league a year later.

Yokohama finished with 20 wins, eight draws and six defeats for 68 points. Kawasaki ended up with 66 points (20 wins, six draws, eight losses).

Yokohama F. Marinos midfielder Kota Mizunuma controls the ball in the second half. (ⒸSANKEI)

Marinos Defeat Ventforet in Fujifilm Super Cup

After clinching the J.League title last fall, Yokohama F.Marinos picked up where they left off with a 2-1 victory over J2 side Ventforet Kofu in the Fujifilm Super Cup on Saturday, February 11 at Tokyo's National Stadium.

Brazilian forward Elber gave Marinos a 1-0 lead in the 30th minute over the 2022 Emperor's Cup champions.

But Ventforet struck back to level the score in the 44th minute through Nigerian forward Peter Utaka's tap-in.

Kota Mizunuma (center) celebrates with goal scorer Takuma Nishimura and teammate Anderson Lopes in the second half. (ⒸSANKEI)

In the 61st minute, Marinos forward Anderson Lopes' shot hit the post, and Takuma Nishimura pounced on the loose ball and booted it into the net for the go-ahead goal.

After the match, Marinos midfielder Kota Mizunuma quickly shifted his focus to the team's season-opening match against Frontale.

"It's positive that we could win today and be able to make adjustments," Mizunuma told reporters. "I'm looking forward to being the first to play against Kawasaki Frontale."

Read the full story , which also includes news items on Cerezo Osaka signee Shinji Kagawa, MLB pitcher Kenta Maeda, boxer Naoya Inoue, rising college basketball star Keisei Tominaga and more, on SportsLook.

Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven