Japan Football Association President Saburo Kawabuchi gave the green light Tuesday for Tokyo Verdy to play in next season’s Asian Champions League even if they are relegated to the second division.

Verdy, who booked a place in Asia’s premier club tournament by winning the Emperor’s Cup on New Year’s Day this year, occupies one of the two automatic relegation spots with four matches left to play in the season.

Along with this year’s J. League champions, the Emperor’s Cup winners from the previous season receive an Asian berth, a system that Kawabuchi said may have to be reconsidered in order for the most recent winners to qualify.

“The Asian Football Confederation has said the Emperor’s Cup winners have the legitimate right to play (in the ACL) and they also said there is no problem with the participation of a second-division team,” Kawabuchi said.

Japanese soccer sources said earlier this month the J. League could replace Verdy with another team if they go down because of a congested fixture in second division, in which 12 teams play 44 games a season compared with 34 in the 18-team top flight.

The bottom two teams are automatically relegated while the third from bottom plays a two-leg relegation-promotion playoff with the third-place finishers in the second division.

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