|Number of teams||16|
|Level on pyramid||3 (1999–2013)
4 (since 2014)
|Promotion to||J3 League|
|Relegation to||Japanese Regional Leagues|
|Domestic cup(s)||Emperor's Cup|
|Current champions||Honda FC
|Most championships||Honda FC
|2017 Japan Football League|
The Japan Football League, (日本フットボールリーグ? Nihon Futtobōru Rīgu) also known as simply the JFL is the 4th tier of the Japanese association football league system, positioned beneath three divisions of the J.League, and the top tier of amateur football in the country. Despite its officially amateur status the league features fully professional teams that hold J.League associate membership among its ranks.
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 F. 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.
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'll start in the J3 instead. The JFL will be 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. Since 2015, the winner of the apertura (first half) qualifies again.
The league follows the Apertura and Clausura system, with two winners of each stage contesting the championship in the playoff.
|Club Name||First Season
|Home Town(s)||Current Spell
|Briobecca Urayasu||2016||2||Urayasu, Chiba||2016–||–||Yes|
|Honda FC||1999||19||Hamamatsu, Shizuoka||1999–||2016||No|
|FC Imabari||2017||1||Imabari, Ehime||2017–||–||Yes|
|Honda Lock||2005||11||Miyazaki, Miyazaki||2009–||–||No|
|Maruyasu Okazaki||2014||4||Okazaki, Aichi||2014–||–||No|
|MIO Biwako Shiga||2008||10||Kusatsu, Shiga||2008–||–||Yes|
|Nara Club||2015||3||Nara, Nara||2015–||–||Yes|
|FC Osaka||2015||3||All cities/towns in Osaka||2015–||–||Yes|
|ReinMeer Aomori||2016||2||Aomori, Aomori||2016–||–||Yes|
|Ryutsu Keizai Dragons||2015||3||Ryūgasaki, Ibaraki||2015–||–||No|
|Sony Sendai||1999||19||Miyagi Prefecture||1999–||2015||No|
|Tokyo Musashino City||1999||19||Musashino, Tokyo||1999–||–||Yes|
|Tochigi Uva||2010||8||Tochigi, Tochigi||2010–||–||Yes|
|Vanraure Hachinohe||2014||4||Hachinohe, Aomori||2014–||–||Yes|
|Veertien Mie||2017||1||All cities/towns in Mie||2017–||–||No|
|Verspah Oita||2012||6||Ōita, Ōita||2012–||–||No|
|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||–||J3|
|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||–||J2|
|Mito HollyHock||1999||1||Mito, Ibaraki||1999||–||J2|
|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||–||J2|
|FC Kariya||1999||11||Kariya, Aichi||1999–2009||–||Tōkai League D1|
|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||–||J3|
|Otsuka Pharmaceuticals||1999||6||All cities/towns in Tokushima||1999–2004||2004||J2|
|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||–||J2|
|Renofa Yamaguchi||2014||1||Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi||2014||–||J2|
|FC Ryukyu||2006||8||All cities/towns in Okinawa||2006–2013||–||J3|
|Ryutsu Keizai University||2005||6||Ryugasaki, Ibaraki||2005–2010||–||Kantō League D1|
|SC Sagamihara||2013||1||Sagamihara, Kanagawa||2013||–||J3|
|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|
|Thespa Kusatsu||2004||1||All cities/towns in Gunma||2004||–||J2|
|Tochigi SC||2000||9||Utsunomiya, Tochigi||2000–2008||–||J3|
|V-Varen Nagasaki||2009||4||All cities/towns in Nagasaki||2009–2012||2012||J2|
|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||J2|
|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 2015 season. Clubs in italic no longer exist.
|Club||Winners||Runners-up||Winning seasons||Runners-up seasons|
||2001, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2014||1999, 2000, 2003, 2004|
||2007, 2009, 2011||2010|
|Sagawa Express Tokyo||0||2||2002, 2006|
|Tokyo Musashino City||
|SP Kyoto FC||
|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 F.C.
Honda Lock S.C.
|2006||Honda F.C.||Sagawa Express Tokyo S.C.||None||JEF United Ichihara Chiba B
|Honda Lock S.C.
(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||Yokogawa Musashino||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.|
Beginning in 2014 the Japan Football League switched to the Apertura and Clausura format to determine the champions.
|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 (withdrew)|
|2016||Honda FC (C)||Ryutsu Keizai Dragons (A)||Azul Claro Numazu||ReinMeer Aomori
|Fagiano Okayama Next (withdrew)|
Japan Football League Division 2
|Third tier of Japanese football