Last season saw thrilling MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE and MEIJI YASUDA J3 LEAGUE seasons unfold that kept us on the edge of our seats and demonstrated the quality found further down the Japanese football pyramid.
In the MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE, Tokushima Vortis were crowned champions of the second tier on the final day at fellow promoted side Avispa Fukuoka. It was a redemptive triumph for Vortis, who were a single result away from going up in 2019 but stumbled at the final hurdle against Shonan Bellmare in the promotion playoff. Tokushima manager Ricardo Rodríguez left straight after the season to take the reins at Urawa Reds, where he’ll see plenty of his former side in the 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE, but will go down in Vortis history, widely-praised for the role he played in steering them back to the top flight.
The J2 goalscoring charts were dominated by a familiar face: 36-year-old Kyoto Sanga F.C. striker Peter Utaka, who has had tremendous success in the division in recent years, and whose 22 goals made him a feared assignment for defenders throughout the league. Just behind him was Giravanz Kitakyushu star Akira Silvano Disaro, who scored 18 goals and whose dynamic play left crowds spellbound.
Perhaps the standout player in the MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE for many, though, was Yuki Kakita, who joined champions Tokushima Vortis from Kashima Antlers and contributed 17 goals to the title-winning cause. He will remain with the team for their return to the top flight—something sure to please the Tokushima Vortis faithful.
In the MEIJI YASUDA J3 LEAGUE, Blaublitz Akita were a revelation, marching to the title undefeated with six games to spare, following a 2-0 win at Gamba Osaka U-23 in mid-November. Having already achieved promotion, the champions let off the gas slightly, only tasting victory once in their remaining matches, but nevertheless will go down as having had a totally dominant campaign—particularly on the defensive end, conceding only 18 times in 34 matches.
Going up to the 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE with Blaublitz Akita next season is SC Sagamihara, who finished second after a tense battle with fellow promotion hopefuls AC Nagano Parceiro and Kagoshima United FC, who finished only two and three points back, respectively.
The MEIJI YASUDA J3 LEAGUE’s Golden Boot for 2020 went to Kaito Taniguchi, who scored 18 times for Roasso Kumamoto. While his team would finish well outside the promotion battle when it was all said and done, he will play in the MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE in 2021 with Albirex Niigata.
In all, it was a tremendously exciting season in the second and third tiers of Japanese football, full of drama and exceptional performances that won’t soon be forgotten. We look forward to you joining us for the next campaign, starting in the MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE on Saturday, February 27th and in the MEIJI YASUDA J3 LEAGUE on Sunday, March 14th.