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Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2004

J. League set for changes in 2005

The J. League on Tuesday finalized a plan to increase the number of first-division teams from 16 to 18 and approved a switch to a one-stage format from the current two-stage system, beginning in the 2005 season.

The league's executive board gave the green light to the change and will decide on ways to promote and relegate teams in a transition for the new format at a Feb. 17 meeting, league officials said.

Among probable options, the top two second-division teams in the 2004 season would automatically be promoted to the first division while the bottom team in the first division would play the third-place J-2 side in a two-leg playoff.

In December, J. League Chairman Masaru Suzuki made his proposals for the shift to an 18-team first division and a one-stage format, saying it would help boost revenue for the J. League clubs by increasing the number of regular-season games. Meanwhile, J. League first division champion Yokohama F. Marinos will meet Emperor's Cup winners Jubilo Iwata in the Xerox Super Cup J. League curtain-raiser on March 6, the J. League said Tuesday.

Iwata, the 2002 J. League champion, beat Kyoto Purple Sanga in last year's Super Cup. The match between the clubs will be played at Tokyo's National Stadium.

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