The Meiji Yasuda J.League is officially sending three teams to the AFC Champions League knockout stages.
Yokohama F·Marinos earned a crucial draw in their final group stage match, punching their ticket to the Round of 16, where they will join the previously qualified Urawa Reds and Vissel Kobe.
Marinos entered their clash with K League club Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors knowing that a draw would ensure them first place and put them through, and they were on their way after just four minutes thanks to a crucial early goal by Anderson Lopes. Jeonbuk answered with an 11th minute goal, but that is all the Tricolor would surrender as the teams battled to split the points.
Urawa wrapped up their group stage with a comfortable 5-0 win over China’s Shandong Taishan. After Kaito Yasui opened the scoring, Tetsuya Chinen and Yusuke Matsuo scored two apiece to make it 13 points and 20 goals scored in Group F play.
Like the Reds, Vissel knew they were already through to the knockout stages but still had one more group game to play. They squared off against Hong Kong’s Kitchee and rode goals from Lincoln and Yoshinori Muto to a 2-2 draw that clinched first place in Group J.
Unfortunately, Kawasaki Frontale fell short of their J.League colleagues in their bid for the knockout stages despite a 1-0 victory over Guangzhou FC on the final matchday. While Kei Chinen's goal earned them all three points, that was only good enough for second place in Group I and they were not one of the four best second-place teams in the East Region that advanced in the competition. Their Champions League campaign comes to a close after three wins, two draws and a loss.
The Round of 16 will kick off in August and see Urawa play Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim, while Marinos and Vissel will square off in an all-J.League tie.