J.League column: The rise of J2

The J2 has run through 15 seasons since its inception in 1999 and things are getting better every year. Goal.com turns clock to bring you highlights of J.league's second tier.

J1 has been taking a break for the last couple of weeks on account of the Nabisco Cup but the second division has been ongoing and things are getting into full swing!

This is the 15th J2 season and the league has developed constantly since things got underway in 1999.

That first year there were just ten teams competing, with Kawasaki Frontale and FC Tokyo becoming the first two clubs to earn promotion to J1 at the end of the season.

Over the next four years the league grew to 12 clubs (with Mito Hollyhock and Yokohama FC joining the original members), and then from 2004-2008 a promotion-relegation play-off was introduced.

This initially involved the club that finished third in J2 and bottom in J1 (Avispa Fukuoka and Kashiwa Reysol), but as J1 grew to 18 teams and a straight-through season (as opposed to two stages as had been the case until then) in 2005 instant promotion-relegation returned for the top two in J2 and bottom two in J1. In 2009 this expanded to a straight three-up, three-down system.

J2 steadily expanded to include 20 teams and then last year saw another re-jig as the second division grew to its maximum capacity of 22 clubs. This included the introduction of a promotion play-off and, for the first time ever, relegation to the Japan Football League (JFL).

Kyota Sanga, JEF United Chiba, Yokohama FC, and Oita Trinita contested the play-offs – with Trinita ultimately triumphant – while Machida Zelvia became the first side ever to be relegated from J2.

This year they were replaced by V-Varen Nagasaki who became the 43rd J.League club. They’ve started reasonably well and have taken five points from their first handful of games.

Trivia Time! Can anybody name the other eight clubs who made up the second division back in 1999?

And, for a bonus point, does anybody know how many clubs have spent at least one season in J2?