Academy Game Project
– To Create a World Class Game Environment –

Ultimate Game Program

In order to develop players who can play internationally for achieving “2030 Football Vision”, it is necessary to bring the domestic game environment (game environment and game programs) up to the world standard. In the past, J.LEAGUE has provided a game environment that includes not only domestic but also international competitions, but in order to develop players who can be active in the ever evolving world of football in the 10 years, the game program needs evolve in the same way. J.LEAGUE is considering the ideal game program from the perspective of how each J.LEAGUE’s Club can provide the best game opportunities for each player, while also linking it to the concept and perspective of “Individual Development Plan (IDP)” for players.

Stretch and Consolidation

Ideally, J.LEAGUE strongly believes that each club should be able to plan and provide players with the opportunity to “Stretch and Consolidation”* according to their own ideas with a seamless player transition across different age grops. And such opportunities for stretch and onsolidation should be provided at the right timing for each player’s individual growth and progression throghout the differnet phases of pleyer development (juniour high school, high school, and professional phase). J.LEAGUE also provides such opportunity not only to players of each academy, but also to players in thier hometown. For example, starting from the 2021 season, J.LEAGUE Youth Championship (commonly known as J. YOUTH LEAGUE) has a rule that allows up to two players per game who are not registered to the participating J.LEAGUE’s clubs to play in the tournament.

*In J.LEAGUE, “stretch and consolidation” is a systematic approach to encourage players’ further growth through Individual Development Plan (IDP) for those who have consistently shown high performance in games at the same age group to challenge and stretch themselves by being moved up to a older age group, and at other times being brought back to play in thier own age group to consoludate thier progress and identified action points.

Six Projects to Be Tied Up through the Game

Game program coonnects and brings all the 6 projects of Project DNA togerther as one. Game is a place for players to demonstrate thier skill and ability obtained through thier training. It enables coach to identify how well the players have achieved and obtained the Player Characteristics of thier age group through matches (games). In addition, the effectiveness of the coaching curriculum at each academy can also be evaluated and confirmed. It is absolutely no exaggeration to say that the fruits of the efforts of all the players and staff involved in the academy will be seen in the matches (games). the fruits of the efforts of all the players and staff involved in the Academy.

The ideal game program is one of the most important pathways between the academy and its first team for players, which must be constantly evolved with the many people involved in Japanese football.

Game Programs Organized by J.LEAGUE

It has been started since 2010 as a frinedly match and played between the U-18 J.LEAGUE Selection and the Japan High School Football Selection prior to the FUJI XEROX SUPER CUP . From the 2020 season, it has been played between the academy of the J1 champion of the previous season and the Japan High School Football Selection. The goal of the match is to contribute to the revitalization of the futures of the entire Japanese football by providing such a game opportunty for U-18 players.

・J. ELITE LEAGUE (cancelled for 2020 season, and lauched in 2021 season)
J. ELITE LEAGUE, which is the closest game platform to J.LEAGUE among the game programs, was newly established to provide a real opportunity for the first team players who needs additional game experiences and for the academy players to play together on the same pitch to achieve their respective goals in line with the football philosophy of each club. J.ELITE LEAGUE is specifically designed to provide consistent playing opportunities for post-youth players (19-21 years old), which has been detected as a missing part for Japanese football, and creates a platform for the world to discover Japan’s young talent and ultimately increase the chance of ROI. This is one of the fianl pathways for academy players connecting to its first team, as well as the opportunities for first team staff to identigy the talents at the academy who are ready for promotion. Players who have developed as elite academy players will have the opportunity for stretching and consolidation by playing together with the first team players in a higher level environment.

Furthermore, J. ELITE LEAGUE has a rule that not only players belonging to the participating clubs, but also, for example, players belonging to local high schools or players who have gone on to college from the academy, can be provided with opportunities to participate in games, that is, opportunities for strech and consolidation. By participating in the J. ELITE LEAGUE , potenteial young talented players are able to gradually increase their visibility in their home towns and gain a sense of responsibility and awareness as members of a community-based J.LEAGUE’s club.

This tournament was established in 2008 with the aim of providing regular opportunities for players in the U-14 age group to participate in games and develop their individual skills. J.LEAGUE academy teams and town club teams participate in this event. Based on the four regions named Polaris, Metropolitan, Volcano, and Southern Cross, the tournament will be held in several groups, with each group playing a home-and-away league format. Awards will be given to the winning team, MVP, and the highest scorer in each group.

・J.LEAGUE Youth Championship: J. YOUTH CUP (cancelled for 2020 season) and J. YOUTH LEAGUE (from 2021 season)
The tournament was founded in 1994 and celebrated its 27th edition in the 2019 season. The 2020 season was cancelled due to the new coronavirus, but for the 2021 season, the tournament has replaced the traditional knockout format with a group stage and knockout stage. In principle, all J.LEAGUE academies participate in the tournament, and in recent years, the semifinals and finals have been held at football stadiums used by the top teams, and awards are given to the winning team, runner-up team, third place team, MVP, and the person who scores the most goals (as the top scorer). The 2020 season was cancelled due to the new coronavirus, but from the 2021 season, a new tournament format will be adopted, and 56 teams, mainly consisting of U-17 players, will participate.

・J. LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL YOUTH CUP (cancelled for 2020 and 2021 seasons)
The cup was established in 2014 and provides a unique opportunity for J.LEAGUE’s academies to challenge and test themselves against the playing styles of foreign teams with which they are less familiar. The cup is held in December every year, with the top four teams from the J.LEAGUE Youth Championship of the same year and four invited teams from overseas divided into two groups, and after a round-robin group stage, the same rankings from both groups play to decide the ranking. The cup, including cultural exchange events during the compeition programme, has been highly recognized as an attractive opportunity for not only the young U-17 generation, but also for coaches from Japan and overseas to learn from each other on and off the pitch. Awards will be presented to the winning team, runner-up team, third place team, MVP, most goals scorer (as the top scorer), best goalkeeper (as the best glove award), and the fair play award.

Previous Game Programs

・J.LEAGUE U-16 Challenge League (2009~2018)
It was held for the academies of J.LEAGUE’s clubs with the aim of organizing a new league matches other than the existing U-18 compeitions in order to provide stable game opportunities for players of the age group who are undergoing significant physical and mental development as they prepare to become professionals. It was organized for a relatively Short-term period at the end of March in several regions across Japan, with the teams from partner countries in Asia who were invited for participation, providing valuable game opportunities for players who will become U-17s in the new season. It has also provided us with valuable experience and an opportunity to consider the possibility of organizing a league tournament for U-17 players.

・J.LEAGUE U-17 Challenge Cup (2015~2018)
This is a short-term international tournament held mainly for the top-performing teams of J.LEAGUE U-16 Challenge League. By inviting referee from South Korea and other strong teams in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, as well as Korea, we have been able to provide U-17 players with opportunities to experience international matches in Japan. As with the U-16 Challenge League, this cup also provided valuable experience and opportunities to study the possibility of organizing a league for U-17 players.

・J.LEAGUE Selection Overseas Camp (2005-2018)
This overseas camp was conducted for a group of players who were selected from J.LEAGUE academies with the aim of improving their performance through the experience of international matches in overseas and fostering a rich humanity through interaction with local people through experiencing foreign cultures. We inspire players through training and matches among the high potentials, and provided them with opportunities to become aware of new ways of thinking about football, and we have also held training camps in Japan to compose a selction of squad. This initiative has also provided a place of international experience for coaches and referees participating from each club.
Over the last years the program has switched to supporting overseas experience on a club-by-club basis to provide opportunities for wider range of players.