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The June 24 editorial “Soccer team on a roll” went wide of the mark. The expansion of J. League clearly shows that, far from “waning,” the popularity of soccer has been spreading throughout Japan. The J. League came of age this year with 36 teams in two divisions. Average attendance in Division 1 in each of the last five seasons has been higher than any other year except for the record second season when the league had only 12 teams, half of which were based in Kanto. More telling is aggregate attendance, expected to reach 10 million this year following a steady climb from 3.5 million in 1997.

Taking a community-based approach, J. League has succeeded in building passionate fan bases in provincial cities all across the country — from Oita to Niigata to Tendo City in Yamagata. Teams have taken root in their communities and provide opportunities for kids through youth programs.

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