J League: The reason why J2 and J3 are called “demons” and “swamps”

J League

Speaking of the J League, many people probably think of the top league, J1. However, the J League also has lower leagues called J2 and J3, to which many clubs belong. However, once a team is relegated from the top league, it becomes difficult to promote from the lower leagues. That’s why J2 and J3 are called swamps or demonic regions.


What is J2 League?

The J2 League is equivalent to the second division league and is a lower league that was created in 1999 when the J League became the second division. Initially, the league consisted of 10 clubs, but the number has now increased to 22 clubs, and there is even a system in place where lower-ranked clubs are demoted to J3. Two of the top clubs will be promoted to J1 clubs without any conditions, and a playoff will be held for the teams in 3rd to 6th place, with the winner deciding to be promoted to J1. Since the league has never adopted a two-stage system since its inception, rankings are determined by points won in league matches each year.

What is J3 League?

The J3 League is a professional sports soccer league that was created in 2014 and is equivalent to the third division league. Although it is a professional league, it is in the same category as the amateur league JFL. Clubs with the highest results and meeting the J2 League entry requirements will be promoted to the J2 League, while those with lower results will be withdrawn from J3 membership depending on the results of the top clubs that met the J3 entry requirements in the JFL.

elevator club

An elevator club is a club that wanders between upper and lower categories. For example, Consadole Sapporo, Shonan Bellmare, Kyoto Sanga, and Avispa Fukuoka are typical elevator clubs that have been promoted and relegated many times. Following this, in recent years, Shimizu S-Pulse and Jubilo Iwata have also become like elevator clubs. The Elevator Club is often called ironic, but compared to the teams stuck in the “swamp” that I’ll be introducing later, they’re clearly better off.

The reason why J2 and J3 are called “devil” and “swamp”

The reason why J2 and J3 are called “demons” and “swamps” is very simple. It’s a league where once you fall, it’s hard to climb back up. You would think that it would be easy to move up in the lower leagues because the level would be lower, but in reality there are many clubs where it is not so easy. Clubs that were previously in the top category are having a hard time returning. Retention battles and promotion battles receive a lot of attention and feature, and are often serialized in the news, but they are extremely difficult.

J League allocation

The existence of the J League equal distribution of funds is also significant. Using 2023 as a reference, the association will provide 250 million yen for J1, 100 million yen for J2, and 20 million yen for J3. As you can see, the lower the category, the lower the amount paid. In addition to this, the winning prize money in each category decreases as you rank lower. Less money means less ability to retain promising players. In fact, most teams that are demoted are able to maintain the strength of the previous year for one year, but after struggling for two or three years, their key players are poached by clubs in higher categories.

average annual salary


If you fall to a lower league, your average annual salary will drop horribly. In the J1 League, there are players representing Japan, so the average value is very high. However, in J2, the number of sponsors tends to decrease, and the average annual income is close to the average of workers. By the time they reach J3, they have reached the level of what is now called the working poor. As you can see from this, the lower leagues are more difficult than you think. The reality is that players who belong to J3 clubs work part-time on weekdays and play matches on Saturdays and Sundays.

Moving distance

More than half of the teams in the J1 League are from the Kanto region, so travel distances are often very short. As a result, you will have more time to rest, and you will feel much less fatigued. However, this is not the case with J2 and J3. The lower leagues are also referred to as regional leagues, and it is natural for players to travel long distances by bus to faraway areas. Fatigue builds up, and the long travel times also add up to stress. Teams that fall into lower leagues have a harder time getting used to traveling for long periods of time.

soccer style

J2 has a particularly large number of teams, with 22 teams. As a result, there are more matches and longer travel times, so the style of soccer tends to be more energy-efficient than J1. Teams that have dropped down from J1 tend to struggle with this style of soccer and are unable to move up the rankings.

pull out

Needless to say, when you reach J2 and J3, the number of sponsors may decrease, and your income will decrease, so the player’s annual salary will also drop significantly. The more talented players are, the more likely they are to want to play in a higher category. Therefore, if you fall into the lower category, it will be extremely difficult to maintain your fighting strength. If an offer comes from a higher category, the better the player, the more likely they will leave, which will have a big impact on team composition.

level down

In the unlikely event that a team falls to the lower league level, it would be nice if they could be re-promoted while maintaining their team strength, but that doesn’t happen and some teams end up adjusting to the lower league level. If this happens, they will adapt to the level of the lower leagues and will not be able to cope with the higher categories of soccer. If you go to the lower leagues, you will have fewer opportunities to play against the higher leagues, so your ability will drop as a result.

A team stuck in the J2 swamp: Tokyo Verdy 1969

Tokyo Verdy 1969 is one of the most famous teams that made it into J2. This team was an old team that won the J.League championship when it first started, but it quickly declined due to the withdrawal of the Yomiuri Group. They have also failed to gain fixed fans and are not popular. Since being completely buried in J2, even if they have managed to reach the playoffs, they have had a hard time winning promotion to J1.

Team stuck in J2 swamp: JEF United Chiba

JEF United Chiba is an original 10 team along with Verdy. However, after an incident occurred in which the famous general Ivica Osim was taken out by the Japanese national team, the team suddenly went downhill. Since being demoted to J2, they have never been promoted to J1. As explained above, they have adapted to J2 in many ways, and have become a team that is no longer able to even aim for promotion to J1.

Team stuck in J2 swamp: Omiya Ardija

Anyone who knows the J League in the 2000s and 2010s would not have been able to predict that Omiya Ardija would be relegated to J3. However, this team will fall from J1 to J3. The team is in limbo due to the inconsistent hiring of a manager by the front office. It is unprecedented for a club with abundant financial resources to fall to J3, and it would be an embarrassing mistake. Will Omiya be able to return to J1?

Team stuck in J3 swamp: Giravanz Kitakyushu

Giravanz Kitakyushu was originally a regular team in J2. However, if you are demoted to J3, your time in J3 will gradually become longer. This is a typical example of a team stuck in a swamp, and although they returned to J2 once, they fell back to J3, making J3 their reserved seat. As a result, they have fallen to the bottom of J3, and there are no signs of them rising to the top.

Team stuck in J3 swamp: Matsumoto Yamaga

Matsumoto Yamaga has a very embarrassing past, falling from J1 to J3. Although they were promoted to J1 in 2015 and 2019, they have completely plummeted since 2020. Matsumoto Yamaga finished at the bottom of J2 in 2020, making it the first time since Sapporo that a club with J1 experience was at the bottom of J2, and the first time they were relegated to J3 at the bottom. Matsumoto Yamaga, who had a disgraceful record, has fallen even in J3 and shows no signs of rising to the top.

The only exception team: Oita Trinita

Basically, if you get stuck in J2 or J3, it is difficult to escape and in most cases you stay in that league for a long time. However, Oita Trinita was an exception. Oita Trinita has a history of falling into the abyss from the J1 League to the J3 League. However, Oita did not adjust to J3 and showed outstanding strength, leaving behind a track record that saw them return to J1. Until 2023, Oita is the only team with such a brilliant track record.

Let’s watch J League

In the J League, you can watch thrilling battles every game. If you subscribe to a video streaming service, you can watch every game live. I will introduce it in the article below, so if you are interested, please take a look.

ChannelPlanSoccer ContentsURL
DAZN\3750national team
major europe leagues
J league
Hulu¥1026french league
dutch league
WOWOW\2530UEFA Champions League
UEFA Europa League
ABEMA TV¥960national team
World Cup
Premier League
scottish league
スカパー¥429 + ¥2480national team
emperor’s cup soccer
J SPORTS\1100fifa world youthJ SPORTS


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