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Japan will face Oman in the first Asian qualifying round for the 2006 World Cup in February next year, the Japan Football Association said Wednesday.

The two sides will meet at Saitama Stadium 2002 on Feb. 18 while Japan is scheduled to play friendlies against Malaysia on Feb. 7 at Kashima stadium and Iraq on Feb. 12 at Tokyo’s National Stadium.

J. League mulls change

The J. League will consider increasing the number of teams in the first division from 16 to 18 from 2005, J. League Chairman Masaru Suzuki said Wednesday.

Suzuki said along with the increase in clubs, the J. League may also abolish the two-stage league format in favor of one.

A formal proposal for the plan will be made at a meeting of directors Jan. 20.

Suzuki said the J. League was considering increasing the number of teams and a change of format as its contract with Suntory Ltd., the sponsor for this year’s championship, will end next year.

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