What to watch for in 2023: Who will be the best newcomer?

What to watch for in 2023: Who will be the best newcomer?

A new season of Meiji Yasuda J1 League football is upon us!

The best teams in all of Japan will battle for the crown of the country’s top team, not to mention AFC Champions League places, city or prefecture bragging rights and, for an unfortunate few, the right to just stay in the top flight.

Here is one thing you definitely want to keep an eye on:

Who will be the best newcomer?

The Meiji Yasuda J.League is built upon Japanese players. The best talent from the country comes through J.League academies and eventually makes their way to the first team, starring all across the country before becoming national teamers, sought after by European clubs or icons in their hometown.

But the league is not entirely homegrown talent. Those great Japanese players are supplemented by great players from around the world.

Whether that is from nearby Thailand, where Chanathip Songkrasin came from to make a major impact, Kenya, where Michael Olunga hailed from as he took home 2020 Player of the Year honors, or the slew of Brazilians who have made their mark, newcomers are always being signed to add their immense quality to the J.League.

Which newcomers could make the biggest impact in 2023?

Marius Höibraten has been tapped to fill in the hole in Urawa Reds’ back line, where he will partner with Alexander Scholz in an all-Scandinavian center of defense. The Norwegian has played his entire career in his homeland, but Urawa believe he can be the type of match-winning defender that thrusts them up the table.

Kashiwa Reysol have similar ambitions for Jay-Roy Grot, who they hope can partner Mao Hosoya up front and take the team to a new level. The Dutch forward was a dangerous player in the Danish league the last couple seasons and, next to Hosoya up top, could run wild in Reysol gold.

Shonan Bellmare were in need of a goalkeeper after Gamba Osaka declined to send Kosei Tani on loan again. With big shoes to fill for the outstanding Tani, Bellmare had to find someone excellent, and they did just that in signing Song Bum-keun.

The South Korean is tall, rangy, shows great command of the penalty area and is proven at a high level after years with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the K-League and AFC Champions League. The 25-year-old’s play even earned him his first national team cap, so there’s reason to think that Bellmare may have themselves one of J1’s best backstops in Song.

Who will be the next great newcomer to the Meiji Yasuda J.League? Tune in this season and find out.

Four more things to watch for in 2023:

-Will it be a two-team title race?

-Who will be Japan’s next superstar?

-ASEAN stars across the J.League

-J.League clubs dreaming big in AFC Champions League