The J-League began in 1993 with 10 teams and expanded to include a second division in 1999 and currently in 2009 has grown to be first division J1 and second division J2 with a total of 18 teams. J1 is played with a round robin system of 34 matches whilst J2 has a 3 match system to decide the champion. The league runs from March to December. The bottom three teams from J1 are relegated to J2 where the top three teams are promoted in exchange. In order to raise the popularity of football when the league first started, the league employed the first golden goal system in the world (sudden death in extra time). They attempted to excite the fans by giving every match having a definite conclusion. However with Japan’s national team participating in the 2002 FIFA World Cup, and with football culture becoming more entrenched, the above system was abolished in 2002. From 2003 if the match was tied after 90 minutes, it was ruled a draw and each team received one point in line with the standard tournament system.
Currently, J-League sides are attracting attention for their performances in Asia. In 2007 Urawa Reds became the first ever Japanese club side to win the AFC Champions League. The following year it was Gamba Osaka’s turn to stand at the top of Asia. However both of those team were unable to translarte this into J-League success and Kashima Antlers won the league in consecutive seasons starting in 2007. The fact that clubs can be crowned champions of Asia but not win their own domestic league displays the high level of the other teams playing in the J-Leaguie.
As of July 2009