Newly crowned champion Gamba Osaka will host second place Urawa Reds on March 4 to mark the opening of the 2006 J. League season, league chairman Masaru Suzuki said Tuesday.

The match at Expo Stadium will be followed by eight first-division games the following day, while the second division will begin its season with six games on March 4.

Each of the 18 teams in the top flight will play 12 games through May 6 before the first division takes a two-month break for the national team’s preparations for the World Cup finals in Germany.

The first division will resume its schedule one week after an All-Star match being planned in mid-July at Kashima Stadium. Both the first and second divisions will end the 2006 season on Dec. 2 or 3.

The Xerox Super Cup between the league and Emperor’s Cup champions, a traditional curtain raiser for a new season, will be held at National Stadium in Tokyo a week before the next season starts.

Japan will host next year’s A3 Champions Cup, an annual event featuring league champions from Japan, China and South Korea, in August.

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