J2 clubs set to fight for final promotion spot

J2 clubs set to fight for final promotion spot

The Meiji Yasuda J2 League has played a full 42 matchweeks and determined which two teams are going straight up to the top flight, and which two teams have finished in the relegation places to J3, but there is still one more thing to be sorted - the promotion play-offs.

Four clubs remain in the fight for the final promotion place and they’ll do battle over two rounds to decide which club will play in J1 next season.

Tokyo Verdy finished in third place this season, making them the play-off’s top seed. They’ll host sixth-seeded JEF United Chiba, who they beat just last month as part of their current 10-match unbeaten streak. With the form they’re in, Verdy have to like their chances.

Tokyo Verdy

JEF United know they can beat Verdy, though, having done so early in the season. The question will be whether they can crack the Verdy defense, which was the best in the league this campaign.

The other semi-final will feature Shimizu S-Pulse and Montedio Yamagata. S-Pulse entered the final week of the season in second place and set to earn an automatic promotion spot with a win, but they stumbled on the ultimate matchday and now find themselves having to battle through the play-offs to bounce back into J1 after last season’s relegation.

By almost any measure, S-Pulse have been the superior team this season. They scored 78 goals, second-most in J2, and allowed just 34, second-fewest in the league. Meanwhile, Yamagata scored only 64 goals and allowed 54, putting a huge gulf between the two sides. S-Pulse also have plenty of starpower, with the likes of Carlinhos Júnior ranking among J2’s best players.

Carlinhos Junior Shimizu S-Pulse

What Yamagata have going for them is a tremendous team spirit. After all, this is a club that lost eight straight in March and April, a terrible run that would have buried almost any team and left them no chance at promotion, but Montedio fought back. They’ve been battling their way up the table all season and earned a place in these play-offs. Counting them out at this point, after everything they have been through, would be foolish.

The winners of the two semi-finals will meet on December 2, with a berth in the top flight on the line. It will be one of the biggest matches of the Japanese football year, but before we can move to that grand stage, the semi-finals beckon. Who will keep their dreams of promotion alive, and whose seasons will come to an end in the play-offs?